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Dancing in the Street for Toyohashi Festival

Every city in Japan has festival, including Toyohashi. Here every body dance in the avenues to the traditional music.

Last 19 October 2013, there is a festival in my city, Toyohashi. I was just arrived to Japan about a week and I want to see around so of course I have to see it. Japan is famous for their festival, right?

And why not? It’s free. Nope, we even get paid 1000 yen for attending!

Indonesian Infantri in the Toyohashi Festival
Our Indonesian troops at that time (other countries’ troops arrived before us).

So what is the festival again?

A week before, My new friend invited me to go to this festival. But for attending, I had to go to the briefing. That same night! Because I wanted to know Japan more, I just said yes and yes. The briefing was not exactly briefing. It was more apt to called it training. Training for dance! For the next week dance! So we spent that night practicing moves not knowing what would we do or what kind festival it is.

Long story short, this festival is maybe comparable to the Car Free Day in Indonesia. Festival will be held in front of Toyohashi station, in the big avenue named Ekimaeodori. This street name literally means “dancing in front of the station” (eki=station, mae=in front, odori=dance). Haha, just kidding. The word odori is spelled 大通 not 踊り in kanji, which means big street or avenue . Thus Ekimaeodori just means the avenue in front of the station. This street will be empty, free from car on the day of festival.

In this street, we dance. By us, I mean everyone. Residents, organization, and affiliates in the city send their delegation to participate in the dance. Each which their own unique dancing uniform. We then stand in the avenue, queuing up like snake in the both sides of the road, and then moving forward while dancing.

I and our friends actually got paid because we bear the mark of an organization while dancing. They specifically seeks international students for this opportunity. And that was why we also (briefed) trained one week before the festival.

Location map of the Toyohashi Festival

The dance itself is simple. Easy to follow, even though when I did it on the briefing it seems so hard. You just waive your hand, and move your feet forward. If you did it wrong, no problems, you have many friends. (Check the video below)

The Festival

The festivals start from 18.00, for two hours. Yeah, we dance for two hours. We do not care whether it is showering or full blown raining. They give as a raincoat, one use cheap plastic raincoat. If you are tired, just stop and sit in the street. No one will scold you.

In the middle of the avenue, they are blasting a song for the dance with a big sound system installed every where. Also, they beat the drums. There is special team just for that, positioned strategically in the specific distance and spots within the avenue.

The drum team in the Toyohashi festival
The bass is kickin’

One thing I regret is because I am too focused to dance the whole time, I have no time to capture the unique costume of each and every team in the festival. I only get a glimpse of the teams directly in front of and behind us. And we move constantly, so forgive me if the photo is blurry (plus it was taken by HTC Wildfire S’s camera).

Oh, by the way, GeGe no Kitaro’s characters are also visiting.

Character from underworld also dance
Underworld people are also visiting

The dance

There are actually three type of dance, each has their own song. If you want to have a taste, please see the video directly below.

The first song is quite slow. The dance moves forward and backward. Thus, the relative position of the dancer in the avenue are not changing that much.

The next one is the fastest with more complex movements. It is also quite bombastic. We can have one lap for dancing just this one. For the impatient, please see from the minute 2.

The last one is medium fast with several chanting and screaming to the other festival attendee in our left and right. This is the Toyohashi song, or so they said, but I do not understand the meaning.

And that’s it.

It was a good experience and quite fun. I am curious though about the background and purpose of the festival, culture wise. Quite a shame they are not explaining that to use. I also to this day do not know, who the hell we were representing, what mark that we bear at that festival. Don’t care. It was fun, we got the yen, and yeah!

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