Last Saturday we set out to find the Dream Yocasoy Festival in Tokyo – and we did. I told you all about it and your response has been fantastic. Several of you commented that it looked like Bhangra dance or something from a Bollywood movie. It certainly is a joyful thing.
Today’s excursion was a trip to the city of Odawara. Further south than Yokohama, it required a short ride on a Shinkansen (yay!). As we were walking to the Odawara castle we began to see groups of people in bright costumes – in the centre near the rail station and then along the way and even on the grounds of the castle. But we were kind of in denial. Surely not another dance festival? What are the odds of that. We should go see the castle.
So we did.
The modern history of the castle is a familiar refrain – the Meiji government began to disassemble it in a fit of ‘out with the old, in with the new’. The the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 struck, followed by the Second World War. But, eventually, the citizens of Odawara decided to excavate and rebuild the castle. Unlike Matsumoto Castle which we visited earlier this week, this is a reproduction. Of course, being a Japanese reproduction it is an exacting one, using materials and techniques from the first go ’round. With some improvements- like proper stairs! (But not like the castle in Osaka that has escalators inside to manage the traffic!)
Did I mention that it is unseasonably hot here? It was past 20C today – the 12th of November. And very sunny. And did I mention that one of the unavoidable facts of castles is stairs? Not just inside the castle tower, but just to get there.
There are moats and bridges and stairs and courtyards before even getting to the main event. And then the castle itself is 5 stories tall. I cannot imagine visiting in the height of summer with heat, humidity and crowds!
It was a beautiful Saturday and people were out enjoying the day. As is often the case in the fall a big chrysanthemum display was set up in the area around the tower.
There were about ten big tents full of displays of chrysanthemums big and small, simple and fancy.
The inside of the castle is given over to displays about the history of the castle and the Odawara area. Odawara was pivotal in the ending of the battles of the warring states that proceeded the long period of the rule of the Shoguns. The castle surrendered after a siege of three months in 1590 when it was clear that they were outmanned. But no one was going to come in unwanted or uninvited – there was no way to sneak up or sneak in.
For one thing there were a whole series of great big gates to get through…. and oh, look, more stairs!
We toured the castle, the grounds and the auxilliary exhibits and decided that maybe we were done. Our enthusiasm for our excursion was not matched, it seemed, by our stamina. Time to consider returning to Tokyo. But as we exited the last exhibit we could hear – music. Familiar rhythms. And sure enough – right across from the main entrance to the castle, in the courtyard of a school there were yokasoi dancers performing. They were in an enclosure and we could only see a little bit, but we could see the bleachers, facing into the blazing sun. Nope – not going to do that. Felt a little badly, but nope. We continued down the street and heard more music – and the street was blocked. And what did we see?
Dancing in the streets, the sequel!
And check out these cuties!
We continued up the block until we could find a curb to sit on. Turns out we were right at the staging area. Got to see close ups of the costumes and the prep and the pre-performence carrying on.
This small group was fierce in their preparation and presentation.
The youngest member of this group was about 65. See the wooden rattle in their hands? It sounds so neat when they all rattle them in unison. One of the happy sounds of the day.
And they’re off!
The group ahead – and their banner man are in full performance mode while the group in the foreground are in the on deck circle. The next group or two are lined up down the street behind them. As they get to this point the official photographer takes the group shot and then everyone moves ahead by one. Very organized.
And then, of course, there are the kids….
This little guy is a banner man in training. The guys who do the real thing are big guys – they work hard to manage the flag pole and the very large flag – while avoiding the crowd, the signs and their own dancers. This little guy deserved his own video: