Saturday, February 27, 2010

Japanese Summer Festival

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Okay, Japanese culture might not be everyone's cup of green tea, but for Big Passy it is a unique and treasured delight. And remember, these are the guys and girls who brought big breakthroughs to the shores of our western world. (The awesome Nintendo WII, Sony PS3, fresh sushi and burning hot saki immediately come to mind as my personal favorites!).

So for everyone's cultural enlightenment, this blog post contains some very unique and colorful Japanese songs and dances.

February in Melbourne certainly has seen a lot of summer festivals. The final one we are covering here at Passy World is the "Japanese Summer Festival". This was held at the "Docklands", which is a fairly new waterfront area they have developed here in the city of Melbourne.

This was the first time I have been to Docklands. I must say that I was not very impressed. The whole development is just all this modern concrete and plastic fabricated into some kind of barren fake opulence, lacking dramatically in gardens or any natural charm whatsoever.

Give me Hawthorn or St Kilda, or further down the coast where I live anyday!

There are some photos of Docklands at the start of the slideshow below.
So take a look
and judge for yourself.

Melbourne's weather wasn't too "summery" at all, but at least it didn't rain. In fact it was still warm enough to wear some shorts.

The following Wondershare Slideshow contains some photos taken at the Japanese Summer Festival on February 27th 2010. When you get through the whole show, the last picture should be of Japanese women dancing with hats. If you missed any pictures then click on the big arrow in the center when the slideshow ends.

Note that we can click on the bottom of the slideshow on the "Manual Play" option at any time. We can then advance through the photos one by one at our own pace. This allows us to stop for longer on the photos that we really like, and quickly bypass the ones that we are not interested in.

(Push the Play button arrow below if the slideshow is not already running).

If you would like to see the above slideshow full size, then click on this link:

In between woofing down delicious wasabi coated sushi, we also took a few short videos of the main entertainment on offer.

With the lack of bright sunlight, the videos have not turned out quite as clear as we had hoped, even though they have been encoded from .MOV files into high quality as "On2 VP6 700kbps" FLV's. I am suspecting that the Lumix ZS3 camera prefers bright sunlight to cloudy conditions. (Don't we all!) This is probably not that surprising, as my previous Sony camera was exactly the same.

The first video is of the "Bon Odori" Japanese Summer Dance.

This dance had at least a hundred people moving around a giant circle. It was impressive to watch, especially the intricacy of the more experienced dancer's hand and arm movements.

This next video is of the "Yosokoi" dance, performed by young Japanese school students from Melbourne.

The Yosakoi Dance was started after WWII in the city of Kochi in 1954. It is a modern rendition of Awa Odori, a traditional summer dance. Yosakoi-style dancing has subsequently spread throughout much of Japan.

The next video is of Big Passy's all time favourite Japanese dance: The awesome "Nanchu Soran". This dance really rocks, and with the JBL speaker system at the festival really blasting the sound out with crystal clarity, it was a high energy topping experience.

The movements of the dancers reflect the actions of Japanese fishermen hauling in their nets.... (which looks like skillful demanding work).

Here is a bit about the dance's history

What is Nanchu Soran?

The Wakkanai South Junior High School (alias "Nanchu") in Wakkanai City, Hokkaido was a junior high school known to people as a school that became rough over 20 years ago, and deep division formed between the teachers and students. However, teachers and the students made up a new Soran dance by bringing together the powerful "Soran Bushi" song of Mr. Takio Ito who presented the concept of the folk song to a certain teacher, with the hope that it would help to make the division disappear some day.

The slogan of Nanchu, from its graduating students to its lower classmen is "The mind is adjusted to one, and I will aim at the top of Japan.” With this spirit and much hard work, the students and their teachers went on to win the Prime Minister’s grand prize at the 10th Japanese Folk Song dance competition.

After winning the competition, the story of Nanchu and their Soran dance was aired on Tokyo television and many people were moved by their story. From the broadcast many people found that power of the dance speaks to the heart and it extends in the soul.

Since the broadcast many other teachers in elementary, junior and senior high schools have introduced the Soran dance into their classes as part of their physical education programs.

The spirit of Nanchu and its charm on people keeps increasing in the whole of Japan, and has even extended to foreign countries, including Australia.

The final video shows a very short segment of a very colorful Japanese Hat Dance. I am not sure of the history or significance of this particular dance. The soundtrack has a very unique vocal style indeed. But I suppose to the Japanese, the vocalist on this soundtrack is as soulful as Aretha Franklin is to us folks in the west.

That's about it for the Japanese Festival.
What a wonderful hot wasabi experience it was!

Over the next few weeks we are planning to get back to doing the usual computer "How To" posts, as well as some guitar items that several people have been asking for.

Big Passy Wasabi

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