Eisa Dance

The 3 day Obon Festival in Japan came to a close yesterday.   The last day typically involves partying, singing and dancing...Now, I know...because while peacefully sitting in my apartment, I heard a banging drum coming from somewhere in the neighborhood.  It lasted for a few minutes then it stopped for awhile.  Then it was as if someone turned the volume up and the drummer was right outside our window... loud drumming, clapping and shouting coming from outside.  I went out on the balcony and saw this:

First I woke Adam up in case he wasn't already awake from the loud banging and music; then I ran downstairs as fast as I could and came face to face with an age old Japanese tradition..it was truly moving.  And FANTASTIC!  They were having so much fun!
 The thatched roof truck to the left had a 4 man band inside who were playing sanshin (Japanese banjo type instrument), some kind of flute and singing.  They had mics and amps and the music was booming throughout the neighborhood.  As I stood watching the performance, I looked around at all the people who had come out of their homes to watch...everyone was smiling and dancing to the beat.

They were Eisa Dancers, which are unique to the Ryukyu Islands of Japan, and involve dancing, chanting, drumming, singing and waving around a giant heavy flag while wearing traditional costumes.  It was amazing!  I could not believe that they were right outside our door performing in a neighbor's yard.  They go around to different neighborhoods and apparently ask permission to perform.  It's an honor to have the Eisa Dancers perform by your home because during the Obon Festival, this is a time when the spirits of ancestors return home, family gather together, and the memory and spirit of the dead are respected.  The dancers are actually welcoming the spirits with their chants, drumming and dancing.
Everyone was moving in unison, smiling, laughing...some had crazy painted faces...it was also the middle of the day and around 90F outside...but they were jammin.
 Everyone dispersed and the dancers and drummers cracked open their cold beverages...I was on the way up the stairs and noticed that they had gone around to the other side of the apartment building to another home and just when we thought they were finished they began performing in their driveway.  So we had an aerial view performance as well.  (which we also have a video of!  I will try to upload to the blog)  
Then they all piled up into a few trucks, still drumming and drove away.  Later that night you could hear the drums coming from somewhere nearby...another surprise show to welcome the ancestral spirits back home. 
Really really neat and unexpected experience.  We were pretty hyped up after it was all over...did that just happen?

No comments:

Post a Comment