Friday, November 4, 2011

Ohara Matsuri, Day 1

Ohara Festival is one of the largest in the Kyushu area, and is probably the largest in Kagoshima. Reports of past festivals have pegged it at 20,000 dancers and 600,000 visitors. 2011 marks the 60th anniversary of the event, which celebrates the founding of Kagoshima city in 1949 (apparently it hasn't been held every year). It's a two day event, with female taiko drummers performing during the breaks, and 2 kilometers of dancing groups taking up Tram street all the way down to Isuro street during the evening of day 1. The city's PA system plays the same music for everyone, and the groups do pretty much the same dance regardless of the song. They walk along a circle that's pretty much defined by the location of the street lights, so any given group is only going 6-8 blocks during the 2 hours.

The groups are essentially employees of the bigger companies in the city, although anyone can join in if they want. At the head of each one is a worker holding a banner proclaiming their company's name. The groups each have their own theme, with one group all dressed up as Minnie Mouse, and another having 3 guys in Power Ranger suits. One of my students had said that her company had been practicing for several days for this after hours. Some of the groups were very good; others looked like just a bunch of people thrown together at the last second.

At about four places along the route there were tents set up in the middle of the street handing out little cups of free shochu and barley tea. When each song ended, everyone, dancers and audience alike, would rush forward to grab a cup or 6. You could tell who the professional drunks were, because they would be closest to the street edge and would run the fastest to snatch as many cups as they could hold, knocking over several others in their haste. But, there wasn't much trash sitting around at the end of the night - everyone was good about throwing the cups away in the garbage bags hanging at the end of the tables.

Of course, there were the obligatory stalls selling plastic masks, hot dogs on a stick, okonomiyaki, and flashing LED sticks. Few customers were lining up for them though, preferring instead to hit the many conbi in the area.

(Few women dressed up in drag, but a couple of the groups had all "women" performers.

(Not everyone took the event seriously.)

(Others did.)

The travel agency groups consistently featured 2 or 3 women dressed up in a bonnet and dress, with everyone else in kimono or hapi.

Some of the groups used noise makers - wooden clackers or whistles. This one above had rattles made out of soda and tea bottles (PET bottles).

(A few of the Minnie Mice.)

(Some of the members of the Musou Satsuma Shochu company group.)

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