I have been trying to do a better job of keeping up to date with the different events going around Tokyo. I've found that Time Out Japan puts together a good weekend round up of the upcoming festivals and concerts. That's where I learned about the Super Yosakoi Genki Festival in Harajuku. Yosakoi is an awesome style of group dance in Japan. It is a modern version of the traditional Japanese Summer dances. They're performed in large groups of people in matching costumes. There are usually a few people that wave giant flags with their city or school name on it and the dances are narrated over a loudspeaker by the most passionate member of the team. Here's a video. The Super Yosakoi Genki Festival in Tokyo is one of the biggest yosakoi events of the year. The festival takes place at 5 different stages in Yoyogi Park in addition to a parade down Omotesando. It's gotten so big that this year's festival was sponsored by Volkswagen. It's a really fun event and I highly recommend checking it out if you ever get a chance. Each group varies greatly in age, style and appearance. I saw a group of 60 year old cat ladies eating next to a group of 20 year old slutty pirates. The groups do have one thing in common though - they are all super psyched about dancing and performing. As they should be, as genki roughly translates to "healthy" or "energetic" in English.
But of course, it wasn't the dancing that originally lured me to this festival. It was the promise of the best B Level Gourmet food in all of Japan. B Level Gourmet, you ask? Cheap, delicious and filling fast food in Japan like yakisoba, okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Osaka is famous for their exceptional B-level food. There is a competition for the best B Level Gourmet food in Japan called the B-1 Grand Prix and the 2009 champ is yakisoba from the city of Yakote. I actually heard of this dish from a lesson of JapanesePod101.com (Lower Intermediate, Season 3) and when I read about their appearance at the Genki Festival, I marked the event in my datebook. The signature marking of Yokote Yakisoba is the fried egg on top. They also use ground beef and the noodles are boiled rather than steamed like regular yakisoba. This dish lived up to the hype. I loved the egg and the fresh scallions and I wish we loved closer to Yokote so that I could eat it more often.
I really really enjoyed the Genki Festival. Even though it was an incredibly hot day, the energy was still high and everyone was getting down with the dancing and the food. I really appreciate Japanese peoples' enthusiasm for hobbies and extracurriculars. You could tell that the participants were really looking forward to performing and seeing other groups. Here are some more pictures from the event:
These are naruko. Like yosakoi, they are from Kochi and were originally used to scare away birds from the crops. These instruments are used in the yosakoi dances and they make a delightful clapping noise with the choreography.
Resting after their performance.
Enjoying the day's snacks.
Cat ladies! First of all, the sequin jumpsuits are amazing. Second, I love their commitment to their theme - check out the cat paw naruko!
(There's always money in the banana stand.)
This man embodies the definition of genki. What a great smile!