Street photography in Tokyo comes with many different benefits, but one of the most treasured elements is the Japanese festival. Although most often held during the summer time and early autumn, there are festivals than span the entire year. Sapporo, for example, has the Snow Festival held for one week during February, and there are many cherry blossom focused festivals while the blossoms have fully bloomed. The most iconic blossom deserves a celebration on par with its rarity and cultural value.
A key element of the festival is the yukata, a lighter version of the kimono. Some people consider it a summer time kimono because it is so synonymous with warmer times of the year and so many festivals are held during the summer time to divert attention away from the sun-drenched days in August and September. Yet just because the yukata is lighter than the colder weather friendly kimono, it does not mean that it is any less lovely or worth to be immortalized in photography. Because the yukata is worn most commonly during summer, the color patterns are typically brighter and carry patterns and scenes that represent summer elements. In spite of the prevailing trends, older Japanese men and women tend to choose more muted colors, but what their yukatas lack in brightness, they make up for in depth and richness. The photos will be ones that you can only capture in Japan!
As is Japanese practice, every piece of yukata is a work of art. You could fill a camera’s entire memory card with one yukata ensemble. The kinchaku, or carrying pouch for modern contrivances such as cell phones or wallets is a vital element for both men and women, and they also carry an individual style. However important they are, they must be consistent and match the overall yukata style and presentation. This curiosity alone is a photo op and conversation starter. Collapsable or fixed fans are also essential elements of a completed yukata, and although some can be plain, some carry personal expressions of style that set them apart from the rest of the crowd.
The final and most critical element is the obi, or belt. It is part of both a yukata and kimono, and just as the belt hold the yukata together, a particularly well-chosen obi holds an individual’s conception of style together. A Tokyo Photo Tour or Kyoto Photography Tour provides ample opportunities to photograph this part of Japanese culture, and your Japan Dreamscapes workshop leader will use the experience of years living and experiencing Japan to make sure that a festival is part of your once in a lifetime experience.
And nothing captures the fusion of tradition with modern accents more than Japanese Street Dance Festivals. One particularly photogenic style is Yosakoi, a dance performed at many festivals across the nation. Yosakoi, in its modern incarnation, was first performed more than 60 years ago, but its origins run much deeper, as the music adapted for the current day performances sample from much older, traditional Japanese music.
The dance is characteristically very energetic, and the performance is usually performed by a large team working in unison. Dancers of all ages participate in Yosakoi performances, from elementary school student to seasoned veteran. Sometimes a team can have representatives that span the entire age gamut. Imagine the culturally rich photos you will have access to as the performers sway and move to the rhythm generated by the fusion ballads and songs. Your Japan Dreamscapes Workshop Leaders have years of experience in Japan and can take you to the most engaging performances from across Japan.
Although the groups’ performances vary by region, there is one element, the naruko, or wooden clapper, that is present in some form in every group. In its original use, the naruko was used to scare crows and other birds from the rice fields, but it has been adapted as a flourish to sometimes very elaborate costumes. The naruko itself makes an amazing photo op. The dances have very carefully calculated pauses, and you can seize that moment to freeze them in time with your camera as you take their picture.
The appeal is so far reaching, that Tokyo holds an annual Yosakoi performance with performer numbers growing every year. Sapporo in Hokkaido is also home to an annual performance that is so expansive it occupies several different parks in the city’s area. Of course, Kochi in Shikoku holds contests and public performances throughout the year, and other metropolitan cities such as Kyoto also have growing numbers of Yosakoi performances.