Saturday, September 15, 2012

to the cinema: Rurouni Kenshin

Last weekend was our first visit to the cinema in a loooong time. We went to Ikebukuro, met up with our friend, and headed to Sunshine Cinema Complex. The reason we visited the cinema was the screening of the real-life action film Rurouni Kenshin. The very populair manga/anime, about the wandering swordsman in the era after the Meiji revolution, has been adapted to a real-life movie. We were very excited to see how the story (and fighting) would be directed and acted by real actors, so we were very much looking forward to our visit to the cinema.

We have watched/read the anime/manga: a perfect and most fun way to study Japanese :), so we knew the story. You can watch the movie with (English) subtitles in Roppongi, but since we knew the gist of the story, and we figured both the experience and Japanese-practice would be much better if we just watched the original (no-subtitle) version.

Without saying too much, and spoiling the story for those who do not yet know it, we can definitely say that it was a great movie, and a very good adaption from the manga. We would definitely recommend you to watch it (so those outside Japan should either wait for the international release, or the DVD (with subtitles?).

And, a good sign of our Japanese progress!, we were able to understand (most of) the Japanese in the movie. Although the bad guy could sometimes be a little hard to understand... why do evil characters always have to say their evil things in mumblings or weird slang?

Visiting the cinema in Japan is basically the same as visiting the cinema in Holland. You get your ticket at the counter, pay too much for your popcorn, sit on the seat with your number and turn off your phone before the movie starts (here almost everyone actually does turn off his phone!). The only big surprise came at the end: during the credits the lights do not go on, and everybody (still quiet) actually watched the credits with great attention.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Koenji Awaodori 2012

Japanese summer knows a lot of festivals, and among these are many Awaodori festivals: traditional dance festivals. We visited some very small scale festivals, for example the one organised by our local senior center, but also very large, crowded festivals like the yearly Koenji Awaodori.

Awaodori festivals consists of many groups of (choreographed) dancers and musicians: parading while dancing, singing and playing through the streets. They wear traditional costumes, and play instruments traditionally associated with the festival (shamisen lute, taiko drums, shinobue flute and the kane bell). All together, awaodori festivals make for truly energetic and popular events.
The dance has been nicknamed 'Fool's Dance' whose origins date back 400 years. This nickname comes from the lyrics to a common dance song, which translates as follows: Fools dance and fools watch, if both are fools, you might as well dance. The tradition can be traced back to the Tokushima area. The story goes that the local daimyo Lord Hachisuka Iemasa hosted a (drunken) celebration for his citizens to celebrate the completion of the local Tokushima castle in 1586. The amounts of alcohol lead to a citywide outbreak of dancing in the streets, some citizens started to drunkenly weave and stumble back and forth, others picked up commonly available musical instruments and began to play a simple, rhythmic song, to which lyrics were invented.

The most famous Awaodori festival in Tokyo, is the Koenji Awaodori festival, held on the last Saturday and Sunday of August. We headed there on Sunday afternoon, so we would not stand completely in the back when the dancing started at 5 o'clock. The festival is really popular, and (not surprisingly) very crowded. The parade of dancers and musicians is of course the main event of the festival, but (as with all Japanese festivals) the lines of food stalls selling all kinds of Japanese snacks/foods/drinks can't be missing.
The dancing lasts for no less then three hours, and is filled with different groups (of people young and old) forming a huge parade through the streets around Koenji station. They are wearing beautiful, colourful outfits and put together a amazing performance, and they are obviously having a great time themselves too. Instead of describing the dancers, and the musicians, it's better to just enjoy our photo's & video's and see what this festival of dance and music is all about: