Monday, August 14, 2006


Yosakoi festival is our big dance festival held annually in Kochi city from Aug 9th to 12th. It is finally over for this year, and now everything is back to normal, except my sunburnt skin, maybe? Both dancers and staff must be suffering from a sever burnout now. (To find out more about Yosakoi festival, click here.)

Last year I wrote about Yosakoi from a dancer's perspective. This year, I didn't participate as a dancer; I was a designated photographer all the time from Aug 10th to 12th. (I couldn’t afford Yosakoi dance because I had to pay a lot to take some classes this summer.) So this post will tell you what it was like to be a beginner photographer at a crazy outdoor dance festival in August when it was above 34 degrees C.

According to a local newspaper, a total of 187 dance teams, approximately 18,000 dancers participated this year. There were 13 dance venues, but I didn’t want to waste my time visiting many of them. It's not easy to move from one place to another during this festival because of the dancers, onlookers and leading trucks occupying the streets. What really helped me was a neat service they offer to visitors. If you want to find out the whereabouts of your favorite team(s), you can access a website with your cell phone and find out.

* Click on photos to enlarge, except this bear photo. (Maybe some of the links could be dead or wrong. Sorry -- I'll fix the problem(s) soon, but not right now...)

And more photos in slideshow HERE!

もし写真に写っている方で、掲載してほしくないという方がおられましたら、kokopelli_sa88 at hotmail dot com までご連絡下さい。

======== OBIYAMACHI ARCADE =============

You know what I found out as soon as I started my mission? It was the fact that I was a tough luck photographer. I am not talking about my digital camera being slow in saving images after shooting several continuous shots. Yes, I got sick of staring at the sand clock icon turning round and round while good looking dancers passed in front of me. But what was more stressful was that every time I was about to take a great shot, someone or something -- a team staff, dancer's family member holding a video camera, a TV crew, etc. -- always came in front of my camera to block my sight! :O

Many people love to watch the dance parade at this shopping arcade because it is relatively cooler there and they can see the dancers really close. What always amazes me is the skill of experienced flag wavers. The guy in the above photo waved this huge flag real big without letting it touch anyone in the audience or any of the signboards of the shops around. It was really breathtaking.

While I was taking photos there in the arcade, one of the teams started throwing rice cakes from their leading truck to the onlookers. Yes, I got one! :D

There seemed to be an unspoken agreement that press photographers and TV crew can shoot from the best locations. They can even walk into the dance parade and shoot close-ups of the dancers. Such privileged professionals, of course, had huge, expensive cameras, and many enthusiastic amateur photographers were also walking around with two or three good cameras hanging from their shoulders, at least one of which being SLR. Mmmm....

=========== KIDS ==========

To me kids are so adorable anytime anywhere, but especially so at this festival. Usually you see kids in the back rows of a dance team, and some of them are given award medals just walking with the team, not dancing at all, only because they are so cute in the costume.

On the other hand, sometimes you see talented kids who are amazingly good at dancing. This girl in red costume was obviously one of those who were kissed by the Muses. Every move she made was not just cute – it was even elegant and more feminine than any other adult female dancers, which almost made me fall in love with her. I’m really happy that I managed to take this shot of her, though its quality is not very good.

============ OTESUJI STREET ===========

Otesuji is a street with zelkova trees in the safety zone in the middle, located near the castle. This is the main dance venue where all the dancers try to show their best performances, because they get to be on TV and the flower medals given there are the most prestigious award.

I always enjoy the colorful scenes with the dancers in bright costumes, gorgeously decorated leading trucks and again, the huge flags waving under the green leaves.

Of course many people do not understand what is so great about dancing in the street in the summer heat, sweating like hell. And often my words are not effective in communicating how beautiful the sweat is on dancers’ faces. So I’ve always wanted to be able to shoot photos that explain what I cannot express well with words.

I hope you get the feel of what I want to communicate through these close-ups of the female dancers posted here.

By the way, rain – actually more like squall – is something you always have to be ready for at Yosakoi festival. I brought a thin rain coat for myself, which I didn't use at all, and a couple of plastic bags for the camera. And as expected, it poured, though not too long. I covered my camera with a plastic bag like some other photographers were doing, but it was soooo uncomfortable, to tell the truth. Out of the several photos I took this way, only one turned out good and it is included in the slideshow (the one with wet street).

========== OTESUJI STREET (NIGHT) ==============

Now, I wasn’t expecting much from this camera when taking night shots. As you see, some of the photos posted here are blurred, but I thought they were kind of interesting in a way.

I’m especially happy with the photos below, because those are the most touching scenes at this dance festival. They show how a team is like at the end of their very last dance of the festival.

The dancers who already finished dancing shout “Come on!” “Come on!” to the rest of the dancers still dancing. Can you imagine what it’s like to see the silhouette of such team mates in the bright lights of the leading truck after you have been dancing, dancing and dancing for a couple of days under the August sun with loud music vibrating through your body? Here I wrote how I felt being in that scene as a dancer last year, and these photos will always remind me of “that moment.”

So this was my experience of Yosakoi 2006. Now I’m feeling so relieved to have shared the images expressing what I couldn't express in words.

And you know what? I’m definitely dancing next year. ;)

* Photos in this post by obachan. All rights reserved.
posted by obachan, 8/14/2006 06:08:00 PM


Oh my, how wonderful! I'd say your camera worked great! As did you! These pictures really make me want to be there for the festival!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 8/15/2006 12:53 AM  
good job on the photos! thanks for sharing with those of us on the other side of the planet, it gives us an opportunity to travel through your camera lens! Thanks again!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 8/15/2006 1:00 AM  
great amazing pictures! i would have loved to be there for that colorful dance festival. the costumes were fantastic!
commented by Blogger purplegirl, 8/15/2006 6:27 AM  
those flags are absolutely gorgeous!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 8/16/2006 1:53 AM  
Thanks. Both me and my camera worked hard. :) The only thing these pix cannot communicate is the loud dance music we had. You have to actually be there to experience it. It’s really something (but many people hate it, to tell you the truth.)

I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the virtual travel.

I have helped the costume work for a dance team a few years ago, and it was really a terrible work!! Think about making such colorful costumes for over a hundred people!! But they all said that it was worth the effort.

They are the huge versions of traditional flags. The flag operators have to be really strong and skillful to keep waving them beautifully.

Well, actually, I chose the photos of dancers with gorgeous smiles only. The truth is that some of the dancers’ facial expressions were like “Gosh, I’m hot, I’m exhausted, I’m dying…” :P
commented by Blogger obachan, 8/16/2006 11:23 AM  

I can only wonder how beautiful it is live....

Does this happen every year? Would like to jot that down in my calendar if I can ever afford to come to Japan :)
commented by Blogger Pinkity, 8/17/2006 7:08 PM  
Dancing in the Yosakoi was an honour for me, this second time around I enjoyed it alot more and could really appreciate the dedication of all the dancers, whether in professional or amateur teams, the atmosphere in the small team I was with was wonderful especially when we finally lined up to dance down Otesuji, and guess what even with my terrible dancing I got awarded a flower:) it was a very proud moment for me and will live long in my memory, a wonderful festival, a wonderful country and wonderful wonderful people. Thanks to you my friend for sharing your photos.
commented by Blogger Ian, 8/17/2006 9:57 PM  
Lovely photos! You've captured some wonderful momernts and good shots of people's faces which are always the most interesting parts of photos I think :) You have a great talent!
commented by Blogger an9ie, 8/18/2006 11:06 AM  
Thanks! Yes, the festival is held very year. Please do come and see this festival if you come to Japan around this time.

Wow! Congratulations on your hana-medal! :D I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed the festival.
Thanks for your friendship.

Oh, you think my pix captured good moments? I thought so myself, too, but it feels good to hear that from other people, too.
commented by Blogger obachan, 8/18/2006 4:03 PM  
obachanさんの写真で、熱気ムンムン伝わってきました。こりゃ楽しそう!踊らにゃそんそんー :)
commented by Blogger cavacavien, 9/12/2006 8:53 PM  
commented by Blogger obachan, 9/14/2006 11:32 PM  

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