Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Asagaya Tanabata Festival - Part 6

The festival at night is quite different than the day time. For one thing, there are many more people. My students who come in the evening and had the bad fortune to walk through the crowd had so much trouble getting through that they were actually a little late in some cases. It must be rather difficult to need to get through a wall of people and still be polite.

Beyond the great crowds though is the absolute din. Not only do you have the roar of the crowd as people try to talk over the noise but you also have a lot of vendors standing outside shouting constantly about their wares.

In the end, it must seem an incredibly over-stimulating experience aurally, visually, and tactilely. I'm guessing after a bit of this, there are some people who just want to sit down and get away from it but seating is really difficult to find. In fact, this is a rare situation where you sometimes see Japanese people sitting on the ground along the side streets because it's the only way to momentarily escape the overload.

In the evening, there are more games and activities running than in the daytime. Some of them are rather similar to the types of things you'd find at similar occasions in the U.S. This game, which involved hitting a spinning wheel with a velcro dart, wouldn't be out of place at a carnival back home.

Some things, however, are distinctly Japanese. A few tables were set up along the sides in front of closed businesses and players waited for shogi (Japanese chess) partners to come along and play. A little ramune and a dog help pass the time between partners.

There was also a live performance by a fellow (dressed like a dork, it seems) doing tricks with a yo-yo and doing some sort of verbal interaction with the crowd.

It wasn't clear what he was saying to them but people were playing along and his performance was pretty popular, particularly with the kids.

The Boy Scouts of Japan were also hanging around for some reason. I guess they were recruiting or asking for donations (or both). I didn't even realize there were Boy Scouts in Japan until I saw this picture. I guess they hung around in the evening because the crowds were so much bigger but I can't think of anything less pleasant than standing around in 90 degree heat holding a donation box and wearing long pants.

Another difference is that there are patrols of people in official-looking get-ups who are there to take care of any problems should the merry-making get out of hand. You'll notice that security in Japan carries a rather different look when compared to that in the States. Skinny old men and friendly middle-aged women are going to keep the riff-raff under control.

The thing about my husband's festival pictures that I liked the most and this was especially so at night when people are too preoccupied to be paying attention to picture-taking or too inebriated to care, is that the pictures are so much more real than what you usually get from Japanese people. When my students show me pictures of their posed vacation shots, it is a sea of continuous hands up making "peace" signs and embarrassed or posed smiles (as above).

Candid shots of real smiling faces or people doing what they might naturally do are a very rare thing and can be quite a joy to behold.

You also get to see and show others that Japan is not awash in a sea of perfect model-like women with perfect bodies, skin, and hair staring into a camera with lips slightly parted and vacant eyes or cutesy girls in cosplay clothes. In essence, it isn't the male fantasy paradise most people who have never been to Japan believe it is.

Even the ones who seem to be striving for the fantasy don't seem to be quite pulling it off and end up resembling women of a certain profession more so than sexy anime characters.

Sometimes you can also see the contradiction between the happy face that people are forced to put on for public presentation and the bizarre, overly-cute, hyper-energized pop culture and the real faces of people who are tired and maybe a little fed up reflected in just one picture.


Emsk said...

Your description of the last picture is probably the best and most on-the-ball observation of a photograph that I've ever heard/read.

Shari said...

Thanks, Emsk. I really appreciate that. :-)