Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Performance Report: Kyodo Matsuri

And with the blink of an eye, it's a year later and our first festival performance of the season, Kyodo Matsuri.

This was quite a nervewracking performance for a number of people who aren't me, because no less than 8 new members were giving their debut performances. Admittedly, two of them had quite significant experience in famous Tokushima teams a long time since, but the rest were all new. Three of them were in my section, which meant that for most of the day I was needed constantly in a number of different places at once, which was made all the more tricky for one of them having spent most of the preparation time shut away in the women's changing area.
Let's count them together...
The ever-present takahari,
found in all the best Awa pictures
Still, the preparations went largely smoothly, including putting together the takahari, also known as a long bamboo pole with two giant paper lanterns at the top, the team's banner as it were. This sounds simple enough, but it's a 15 minute job for about 5 people, with 1 more person standing nearby "supervising". A former team captain likes to make a show of swinging the takahari around a lot during the parade portions, so the lanterns really need to be clamped down tight by a process that everybody manages to forget after nearly a year in storage.

Like last year, and every other year before that, the performances were split into two parade strips which start at opposite ends of a long shopping street and meet in the middle, and a fully lit stage area for set pieces. The parade strip was also sectioned off later in the evening to be used for multiple simultaneous set pieces, where absolutely no consideration was given to the way the sound travels—it's very easy for a single team with a loud drum section to drown out 3 or 4 teams in each direction for the duration, and it happens more often than you might think. Still, that's part and parcel of the whole festival atmosphere.

The good
Our main set piece on the big stage was about 50 minutes into the festival, so we were sufficiently warmed up by then. Each of our three dance parts had many members present, and the practice we put into the choreography paid off well. We all moved very cohesively, with no missed cues and near perfect blocking, and the cheers coming from the audience were enthusiastic enough to let us know we were doing it right. Watching a video of it later, I have to say it's hands down the best public performance we've given to date. Let's see if we can keep that up for the remainder of the season.

The bad
A common problem we have at Kyodo is that the parade grounds are very very narrow, and we really need the space to move. As such, we were heavily constrained and couldn't do anything fancy. The crowds seemed to like us anyway, but it would have been nice to be able to show them more. Heavy congestion also meant that we were unable to move forwards either, stuck on a spot for several minutes at a time. Being stuck on a spot is a common problem at a lot of festivals.

The ugly
When you have a 37 strong team moving around on foot through backstreets, it can be a job keeping people together. This became something of an issue on our second parade entry, as we needed to start moving and two essential musicians had disappeared. They turned up after what seemed like an eternity but was in fact about two minutes, and everything was fine—they'd needed to stop and make some adjustments to an instrument— but I've taken the precaution of sending out a memo to the effect, "When a performance finishes, go straight to the waiting area of the next performance ground and stay there." That will hopefully avoid us a repeat.

All in all it was a good evening. There were no mishaps caused by new members which was no doubt an enormous relief to them, as it was for us also. Crowd reactions were almost entirely positive, including one old lady that approached me after our final set piece in tears thanking me for giving her some positive energy. Isn't that sweet. Next weekend is Kitamachi Awa Odori, which brings its own unique set of challanges, none of which are a lack of space to move.

Update: Friend, Tokyo Ebisuren fan, and fantastic event photographer Takanobu Yanagihashi has put up an album on Facebook.


  1. Really enjoyed the performance, as always.

    1. Was good to see you there. Glad you enjoyed it!