Sunday, 30 August 2009

Koenji Awaodori 2009

Another year of Koenji festival done with.
I was armed with my camera gear, this year.
Previous years I've had a point and shoot camera, but this year I had my trusty Pentax K10 and a few lenses.
I was eager.
Saturday didn't go according to plan, for photography anyway.
Didn't arrive in Koenji til 7pm - after work.
Came down with a few mates and it was already underway.
The crowds were chaotic, and quite frenzied. Fantastic.
The actual festival runs from 6-9pm.
Food had to wait, but the liquor was already flowing.
Well, the crowds were a little off-putting. It was impossible to find a clear spot to take pictures.
We, that is myself and 2 mates, heading into the back streets with about only 30 minutes remaining.
Pulled off some shots.
It was good enough.
Met up with another mate and her boyfriend, then some more mates.
We were about 7 strong by this time.
As the festival came to an end on Saturday, the streets were littered with drunks.
Some other people latched on to the group and at various times through the night, we were averaging 10 people.
Some "new mates" would go, only to be replaced by some other random strangers.
Quite international: Japan, Sweden, Australia, US, NZ and England.
Made for a good night.
It was a typical hot Tokyo night and street drinking was the cheapest and best option when the party on someones rooftop went pear-shaped.
Aaaah, that'll be what happens when you meet strangers that invite a group of people back to a "party" and rooftop that aren't theirs.
Morning came and we made our ways home.

Sunday, met up with some other mates who are quite serious about their photography.
I got some good shots. At least I think so.
I am satisfied with some of them.
It pissed down from about 6:30, heavily.
People say it rains a lot back home in England.
Yeah, it does, but when it rains in Japan, it's relentless.
It rained heavily for last years festival.
The rain didn't spoil the fun, though.

I'll post some pics later.
I also got some pics of mates and people I met on the night that 'll put up...just for the sake of the memory of a good night.

Cop Bikes

This a a typical cop bike in Tokyo.
The cylindrical thing near the front forks is a holder for the staff they sometimes carry and parade with menacingly putside the small, shoebox-sized police stations.
On the back of the bike is a box.
What might be in the box?
Well, coppers in Japan carry hand guns.
So, in the box could be some ammo, or perhaps another revolver...maybe some extra handcuffs.
Or some other nasties for a spot of the old ultra violence.
Well, yeah, maybe.
Except on Koenji Awaodori weekend, when the box serves as a place where you can pick up a leaflet about the weekends festival.

Monday, 17 August 2009

How safe is Tokyo?

Saturday night, around 12:30am, I was having a drink on the South side.
People gather here late, while the weather is good.
Musicians often play and sing, just outside the station, or across the road where there are some small pedestals and the taxi rank.
Usually there's a good mix of characters, and some down and outs.
This Japanese guy started talking to me about football.
At first, I thought he might be homeless.
This area of Koenji gets a bit messy with food boxes and cans scattered around.
The guy gets up and collects all the shit into a big plastic bag and throws it at the restaurant across the road.
In the pics above, you can just make out the restaurant in the background where people are eating outside, too. He's not in the pic.
So, it falls short of its target and lands half on the path, half in the gutter.
He stands there staring at the restaurant staff and customers as they look at him and quickly look away.
It's Japan, they won't do anything. He more than likely knows it. But he looked ready for a punch up.
Good on him. Some of the crap came from that restaurant, he told me.
He said Japanese people can be dirty, and he likes a clean area to sit and relax.
I bid him good night and he went on his way.

To add to that, there was also a guitarist playing there.
He'd left his stuff and just walked off somewhere, out of sight.
It was a good guitar, I'd heard him play. His bags were left, too.
I took a pic above.
There were two other guys playing with an amp across the road and their guitars were drowning him, so I thought that he just got pissed off and left.
30 minutes or so, he came back with a few friends and played again.

I don't know if he felt safe leaving all his stuff there with a trouble-making Japanese guy and an English man...he must have.
So, that night I saw two incidents that nobody wanted to intefere or take advantage of the situation.
Seems strange to think that back in England, a similar type place would have a gang of wankers, pissed out their heads looking for a fight.

To add to that, I was around Kabukicho, the red-light area of Shinjuku the previous weekend, with some mates, drunk, taking pics of the pimps and hos with no trouble whatsoever.

I like it. Different to England in so many ways.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Getting to Koenji

Thought I should post a random bit of info on how to get to Koenji.
Really quite straight forward, but just one thing to bear in mind...
On the weekend, the platforms 3 & 4 don't operate.
So, if you're heading here on a rapid train, that'll be the silver and orange train(or the orange train, which is almost finished, being replaced by the silver and orange ones), you'll go past Koenji and have to double back.

The local train Chou/Sobu Line (silver and yellow) and Tozai line (silver and blue) both operate on platforms 1 & 2.

Four platforms in all at Koenji station.
The station itself is quite small, having only a North and South entrance/exit.
There is only one set of ticket gates at Koenji station.
The North and South exits are after exiting the ticket gates.

On Awaodori weekend, with only 2 platforms operating, even a small station like Koenji takes about 10 minutes to exit, due to the sheer amount of people visiting.

53rd Annual Koenji Awaodori

This year sees Koenji Awaodori see out the month of August with a bang.
To be held on the last weekend: 29/30 August.
It's held over two days.
Officially states from 6-9pm, but that's just for the actual singing and dancing.
Good to get in to Koenji before that to beat the masses and get a good spot.
There's also a few more things going on, like a Mikoshi parade.
Drinking starts early and the daytime is a good chance for pics as performers are walking the streets fully-clothed up ready for the evening.
Recommend checking out some of the back streets as you can get close up to the action and the drums are deafening.