marky star

Posts Tagged ‘koenji’

Top 10 Japanese Songs of Summer 1

In Japan, Japanese Music on August 1, 2013 at 2:03 am

Japanese Top 10 Songs of Summer (part 1)

Are you ready for summer Japanese-style?

Are you ready for summer Japanese-style?

This list is divided into 2 parts. The first part is a little more traditional, or at least songs that you’ll associate with summer because they only are heard in the summer or because they are about the summer. The second half is made of songs I think sounds awesome when chilling at the beach or a barbecue.

PART 1

#1
阿波よしこの Awa Yoshikono

This is the song the accompanies the most famous of the 盆踊り Bon Odori dances. The dance and this incarnation of the song originated in 徳島県 Tokushima-ken Tokushima Prefecture, the former 阿波国 Awa no Kuni Awa Province. Without a doubt, this song and its accompanying dance and costumes are the prevailing image of お盆祭り o-Bon Matsuri O-bon Festivals on 本州 Honshū, the main island of Japan. Summer in Japan is wicked hot and if you’re gonna spend all day outside sweating and eating and drinking, you might as well have this hypnotic music and dance and costumes to make the event more festive.

This video is of a stage performance of the dance. I chose this one because it was the clearest audio recording I could find with dancers who were pretty good. This performance is a little more stylized then what you would see at a festival, but you’ll get the idea.

.

.

The second video of an actual performance in Tokushima where you can see how the dance is done at a festival. It’s basically a parade. Throughout the main island, at local matsuri that have adopted the dance, it’s not uncommon for the dancers to invite partiers to join in the parade. I don’t think they do that in Tokushima… but I’ve never been so…
.

.

.

#2
エイサー踊り Eisā Odori

First one thing; Eisā is the name of dance and not the song. I don’t know the name of the song.
This is a style of music and dance associated with Bon Odori that is from 沖縄 Okinawa. It’s freaking bad ass. Dudes with big ass banners lead two opposing “armies” of synchronized male drummers followed by cute girls in Okinawan yukata who “battle” each other. I’m not an expert but I think the “battle” is determined by which team can keep their rhythm better than the other team. If I team is getting confused by the other team’s conductor and tempo, they’ll back off to “re-group” and then “attack” again. I may be totally off on this – I’ve never even been to Okinawa – but it seems like that’s what’s going on.

When I first lived in Tōkyō, I lived in a small corner of 中野区 Nakano-ku Nakano Ward called 鍋横町 Nabeyoko-chō. They have an awesome small but local matsuri that I attended every year that I lived there and even now, I head back for this great neighborhood festival. Naturally, they have Awa Odori, but for whatever reason, they always feature Okinawa Eisā Odori too. So this style of Bon Odori has a special place in my heart as a great sound of summer in Japan.

From Nabeyoko-chō Matsuri 1:




If you see me or Mrs. JapanThis in either of this video, I wouldn’t be surprised.

.

.

#3
夏祭り  Natsu Matsuri

OK, this is a pop song from 2000 by a girl band called Whiteberry[i]. The band is pure J-Pop, but there are some punk[ii] undertones, and somehow the managed to release a summer anthem that shows no sign of disappearing. The lyrics capture a quintessential summer romance that any person who’s lived in Japan should be able to recognize. It’s a celebration of young love, fireworks and, yes… the yearly summer festivals that everyone looks forward to – and everyone never forgets.


 

 

#4
島人ぬ宝 Shimanchu nu Takara

This is a classic pop song by an Okinawan band called BEGIN. They mixed rock[iii] with traditional Okinawan elements… something that if I just read without listening would tell me, never listen to this. But I first heard this song in the winter at karaoke and suddenly found myself enchanted by the love of Okinawa that these guys had. The title is actually in the Okinawan Dialect[iv] and means “The Island People’s Treasure.” If you study Japanese, you may be interested to know that the ぬ nu in the title corresponds to the Standard Japanese の no. There, now you know as much Okinawan as I do.

.

.


#5
あいぞめ Aizome

This is a song from a classic Japanese animation called 地獄少女 Jigoku Shōjo Hell Girl sung by the Japanese voice actress Nōtō Mamiko – who also voices the lead character. This is a weird one, but please, hear me out. O-bon is the season when the Japanese believe ancestral spirits return to their homelands to meet their families. Calling it a “Festival of the Dead” is a bit dramatic, but in the Edo Period, when family members could enjoy time off and be reunited in their ancestral homes with loved ones, they undertook the tasks of cleaning up the family graves and performing Buddhist ceremonies for the dead. As such, they were thinking about dead people a lot. The result was on hot nights, some clans would light 100 candles as the sun was setting and would supposedly tell 100 ghost stories. At the end of each story, a candle would be extinguished. By the time it was dark and you were just down to one last candle, you’d been talking about ghosts all night. When the last candle was put out, it was said a ghost would appear[v]. A lot of the imagery in Jigoku Shōjo centers around o-bon and similar creepy traditions, so I think this song fits in well with the O-Bon and Japanese summer tradition.

.

.

 

Part two is coming tomorrow.
Honk if you ready!

Wanna Support My Blog?
Click Here to Donate
Click Here to Buy Awesome Nerdy J-History Goods

.

.

.

.


[i] Not to be confused with Whitesnake.

[ii] I use “punk” in the very loosest of meanings… ie; a J-Pop meaning.

[iii] I use “rock” in the very loosest of meanings… ie; a J-Pop meaning.

[iv] I use “dialect” in the very loosest of meanings… ie; Okinawan is a separate language from Japanese, even if most Japanese don’t admit it.

[v] Life before TV… am I right? am I right?
Anyways, this kind of ghost story telling party was called 百物語怪談会 hyaku monogatari kaidankai 100 ghost stories party.

What does Mitaka mean?

In Japanese History on June 27, 2013 at 2:56 am

三鷹
Mitaka (3 Falcons)

Three falcons.

Three falcons.
Let’s get it on!

.

I don’t know why I haven’t written about Mitaka yet. I’ve known the etymology of this for about 7 years. It was told to me by a monk at one of the temples located around 井ノ頭公園 Inokashira Kōen Inokashira Park – which is another interesting place name, actually.

.

.

Inogashira Park has a beautiful canopy.

Inogashira Park has a beautiful canopy.

.

Mitaka is part of the Tōkyō Metropolis, but it is not one of the 23 Special Wards. So it doesn’t use the word 区 ku ward, rather it uses 市 shi city, thus the full name is 三鷹市 Mitaka-shi Mitaka City. Despite not being “special,” Mitaka does have some interesting attractions. The most famous place is the town of  吉祥寺 Kichijōji where the famous Inokashira Park is located. It’s a great park, a little crowded, and popular with young people. It’s famous for 花見 hanami cherry blossom viewing and hippies. There are some interesting shrines and temples located in and around the park that have their own interesting stories as well. The city is also famous for the Studio Ghibili Museum[i].

.

Mitaka Station

Mitaka Station

.

My research confirmed the story I was told by the monk and also produced an alternate theory. First, I’ll give you the story I heard 7 years ago.

In the Edo Period, the Tokugawa shōguns used the area as a 鷹場 takaba falconry hunting ground[ii]. The shōguns could use any damn place they wanted for falconry – it’s good to be the shōgun – but as with all things in the Edo Period, there were restrictions on the other noble families, including the other branches of the Tokugawa clan. The vast Mitaka area was reserved for the 御三家 Go-sanke The 3 Families the 3 branches chosen by Ieyasu to provide a shōgun if his direct family line went extinct[iii]. Because members of the 三 mi 3 most elite branches of the Tokugawa family came here frequently to hunt with 鷹 taka falcons, the area came to be known as 三 鷹 mi taka, the 3 falcons.

The alternate story that I came across states that Mitaka was surrounded by 3 領 ryō territories[iv]. Those territories were 世田谷領 Setagaya-ryō ,  府中領  Fuchū-ryō , and  野方領 Nogata-ryō, therefore the area was called  三 鷹 mi taka, the takaba surrounded by 3 territories.

Falcons.... not so cool in our era....

Falcons…. not so cool in our era….

In the Edo Period, the area was just a collection of villages and the name Mitaka seems to have been a nickname or deliberately chosen later. It wasn’t until 1889 when the 22 year old Meiji government abolished the old Tokugawa civil administrative units and created the 市町村制 Shichōson Sei City-Town-Village System of administration. At that time the area that is now Mitaka was officially created. Apparently, there was a document that included the reason the name Mitaka was chosen but it was lost when the old village office was destroyed in a fire. This is one of those times when we are close enough to the creation of a name that we could have an official etymology but far enough back in time that backups and copies of things weren’t always so common and – the curse of any person interested in Japanese history – the cities were fire traps. So close and yet so far.

To be honest, both stories sound credible to me. And it’s not inconceivable that the reality lies a little in the middle.

.

.

.


[i] I see no reason to talk about Ghibili here…

[ii] See my article on Kōenji for more about falconry and the samurai elite.

[iii] Anyone reading my blog by now probably already knows these, but just in case, those families are the 尾張徳川家 Owari Tokugawa-ke the Owari branch,  紀伊徳川家 Kii Tokugawa-ke the Kii branch and 水戸徳川家 Mito Tokugawa-ke the Mito branch. And a quick aside, the area wasn’t only for the Go-sanke’s use, of course, the shōgun family could use it if they wanted to.

[iv] Mitaka itself didn’t exist. It was just an unincorporated area of 武蔵国多磨郡 Musashi no Kuni Tama-gun Tama District of Musashi Province.

Why is Kōenji called Kōenji?

In Japanese History on April 12, 2013 at 1:45 am

高円寺
Kōenji  (High Circle Temple)

Koenji

Koenji

Kōenji is funky town in Suginami Ward next to Nakano. Like Nakano, it’s got everything. It’s residential and convenient, but you have plenty of places for shopping and eating and drinking and whoring.

The name seems pretty straight forward. Any place name that ends with (ji/tera) is named after a temple. Lots of those, as you can imagine. And yes, Kōenji is named after a temple.

The west part of Tōkyō – Takadanobaba, Nakano, Kōenji, Mitaka, Kichijōji, etc. – was pretty fucking rural in the Edo Period. It was a good place for bored samurai to practice various 武術 bujutsu martial arts. This particular area was well known for falconry which was what Japanese nobility did for fun because they didn’t have video games yet and life was pretty boring. Some of the Tokugawa shōguns and daimyō doing alternative attendance service came out here for falconry.

Tokugawa Ieyasu and a falcon.

Tokugawa Ieyasu and a falcon.

Wait! What the Fuck is Falconry?

In Japanese, it’s called 鷹狩 taka-gari (falcon hunting). It’s a kind of “game” by which you hunt birds or other animals with a trained bird of prey. Since getting trained birds of prey was expensive, it was a “game” that was pretty much restricted to the nobility. It sounds fucking boring as hell to me, but all the rich daimyō loved this shit.

Wait, if they loved it so much, why do you never see it much in samurai movies these days?  Because… well, it was probably boring as hell. What do you expect? These people didn’t have smartphones, purikura, bukkake, and bit torrents yet. Making a bad ass bird go catch another bird for you might be cool if you’ve never seen the internet.

koenji

The temple

Anyways, back to Kōenji.

In the mid-1550’s there was a temple established on a hill in the area. The name of the temple was (and still is) 宿鳳山高円寺 Shukuhōzan Kōenji*, but most people just call it Kōenji.  The story goes that Tokugawa Iemitsu (the 3rd Tokugawa shōgun) stopped by this temple often whilst getting his falconry on in the area. In fact, the planting of a few trees on the premises are attributed to him (a topic for another time).

It’s said that originally, the area had the name 小沢 Ozawa “little creek,” but after the shōgun became a patron of the temple, the temple’s prestige rose and the area naturally took on the name of the temple.

Koenji Awa Odori

Koenji Awa Odori

On last note, Kōenji is famous for a summer festival that features a kind of dances called 阿波踊りAwa Odori. This traditional dance comes from Tokushima (formerly 阿波国 Awa no Kuni). I have a certain friend who might slit my throat – with good justification – if I didn’t mention that this dance is not Kōenji’s local dance. It’s just a way for Tōkyō people to enjoy this traditional dance. Anyways, real 阿波踊り Awa Odori comes from Tokushima and if you meet a person from Tokushima and you say that, you may earn a friend for life. Awa Odori is beautiful and the music is cool and the costumes are beautiful. If you can’t see itin Tokushima, try it in Kōenji.

*鳳山 is an interesting word itself. 鳳 ōtori refers to a kind of mythological bird of prey that can turn into a fish. It’s not a phoenix, but if you think of it as a phoenix, it makes sense. This area was famous for bad ass birds.

%d bloggers like this: