Sunday, June 12, 2011


Everyone who has been in Sapporo for any length of time always says that this is the best time of year. The snow has gone, the weather has warmed up, enough that you can get from bed to shower with suffering frostbite, not so much that walking outside is like plunging headlong into a spa pool. Schools have their annual festivals and sports days, so working life is even less arduous than usual. And there are all kinds of things to look forward to - summer holidays, beer festivals and YOSAKOI YOSAKOI.

Look, I'm not a dancer. Ask anyone who saw me at the latino club two weekends ago. Bobbing enthusiastically on the spot does not a tango make. But I can appreciate the asthetic and the energy, and no style of dance focuses more on both of these elements than YOSAKOI YOSAKOI.

Yosakoi is a style of dance which, as far as I can gather (on the strength of no research at all) originates in Japan from a ritual that used to be performed by fishermen to bring luck with, you know, fish. I don't know. Maybe fish like dancing? I hear they're pretty envious of the whole legs/feet thing. Ariel certainly had some kind of beef with her tail (what's that word again? Oh... street. Bloody hell, Ariel, GOOGLE it). Anyway, something. Look it up yourself. YOSAKOI YOSAKOI. All I know is, in modern day Sapporo, it translates to hundred and hundreds of Japanese people, old and young, wearing fancy shiny costumes, carrying wooden things that clack and twirling in circles in unison. YOSAKOI YOSAKOI. Wait, a koi is a fish, is it not? I wonder if they realise this. I'M A FISH I'M A FISH. What?


Hang on. Point of note: sometimes, when you've sung karaoke until four the previous morning (including a rendition of Wannabe, a couple of heartfelt duets and a really painful once-over of Linkin's Park's NUMB which only really a song in the loosest sense of the word) sometimes you go to really excellent events without your camera, and are forced to use your iPhone. And then, you leave your iPhone picture quality on High Definition, which is all well and good in theory, because, well, low definition is just so 2008, but means that the shutter speed (do iPhone's have shutters? Hearts? Souls? ULTERIOR MOTIVES?) is too slow for the manic movement that is YOSAKOI YOSAKOI (soran soran), so that the dancers appear to have two sets of legs/be birthing demons through their faces. So, sorry. Just, like, cross your eyes or something.

Seriously, aren't my photography skills the best? Isn't it unfair when one person is just too good at too many things? I can dress myself too. And tie my own shoelaces. I KNOW.

Look at this group:

Sometimes Japan is just over the top Japanese.

Look! A small one!

So, I took 300 photos. No, really. I might be most proud of this one:

It's just so elegantly composed, you know? So minimalist. And even though I took it accidentally, it does illustrate something particularly wonderful, which is that even when Japanese people are arrayed in lines on tarpaulins along a main road like this:

... everyone will STILL take their shoes off. PS: SPOT THE FOREIGNER.

Pictorially, I haven't captured this event with any finesse. But the music was amazing, the energy incredible and the atmosphere just really, really positive. All the groups were outstanding, but I did play favourites, just a little:

Here they come....

You guys, something's different.

The hair! The HAIR. Pink, red, purple, green. They caused quite a stir, lemme tell you. I nearly climbed the barrier to join them, but then I realised that my 'do was WAY TOO TAME for them. And look how liberated they feel!

"I whip my hair back an' forth, I whip my..."

"I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!.... Fellow country men, this is what we've been missing! Free your follicles and the mind will follow!"

"....What? I'm jumping too high? Shit, sorry".

"Single file. Straight backs. Is this better?... Who's got some fucking hair dye?!"


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