Something is strange. I thought that when I was heading for the summer festival site. There is a tiny festival in my neighborhood every summer. It was held on August 3rd and 4th this year. I found out the reason why I had thought that something was strange when I arrived at the site. The place was very quiet. You know, festival sites are usually exciting. What’s happening? I looked at the stage, where five elderly people were doing something in a quiet manner.
What are they doing? Two women were playing the three-string instrument called shamisen, and other two women and a man were singing. It was music, but was not a contemporary one. They were playing a kind of traditional music in the Edo period “Nagauta”! This summer festival started solemnly.
The next performance was in complete contrast a rock band’s music. Interestingly, the band was consisted of young boys and their father-looking middle aged men. They brightened up the atmosphere at once. Many festival goers surrounded the stage and danced in a frenzy of excitement. Wow! I saw some elderly women also dancing.
After the feverish staging, a dance unit named Tsubasa appeared on and around the stage. They are more than 20 dancers and perform at some major festivals such as Domatsuri in Nagoya as well. All of the dancers are my neighbors: from elementary school students to middle aged people. They danced to some their original music. Their energetic performance made the festival atmosphere sensational.
In Japan’s festivals, stalls are very important: shaved ice, grilled squids, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, French flies, goldfish scooping, water balloons hooking, etc…Many children were rollicking around the stalls holding coins in their hands. They wanted to buy some junk foods and toys which looked chintzy during the daytime. Under the spell of the festival, everything looks sparkling for kids. Of course, I was that kind of child.
Actually, the festival used to be called a bon dance festival. At bon dance festivals, people usually wear yukata, or cotton kimono for summer, and dance the same dances together to well-known Japanese folk songs in a circle. We stopped having bon festivals several years ago because of the aging population, the diminishing the number of children, internationalization, and diversification of personal interests in our area. The number of the participants at the bon dance festival decreased year after year. Because of this, the number of the stalls also lessened. The festival had difficulty surviving.
But the festival in my neighborhood was revived as a cultural festival several years ago. You can dance, sing, play music, magic, anything you like at the festival. Not only many neighbors have come back but also some people have joined the festival from other areas recently. The festival isn’t as big as it used to be and some Japan’s summer tradition has been lost, but I think it’s wonderful that many neighbors can get together and have a wonderful time together once a year. Why don’t you join use next summer?