Every year on the playground of a primary school in Nihombashi hordes of kimono-wearing ladies gather for a kimono festival photo-shoot, bunching up tight and staring up to the sky with a fist raised in the classic ‘ganbarimasu!’ yes-we-can pose to be shot by swarming paparazzi on the rooftops above. This time I moved amongst those authentic PRESS journalists like a cuckoo in the finch’s nest, subterfuging my way up the scaffolding to look down on the gathered kimonoistas, finally able to see their bunching this year overtaken by the Tokyo 2016 Olympic bid.
SY heard about this festival and cued it up for us, one of many for kimonos in Nihombashi last weekend. It’s sakura time in Japan (cherry bloosom time), signalling the fresh start of spring and the beginning of a fresh round of spring matsuri (festivals). Alongside such kimono events there are hanami (flower-viewing) parties taking place all over the country, with the flowering peak to be some time this week in Tokyo.
Drummers open the photo shoot.
We arrived and were ushered in to a small area for sightseers facing the seated mass of kimonoites; on the way in they gave us a literature pack filled with kimono information and the history of the festival, plus a Tokyo 2016 pin badge. We didn’t see the connection then.
Ladies in kimono sitting patiently.
A cluster of red kasa (umbrellas)
A taiko drum.
The emcee talked for a while about the importanc eof the kimono festival and the importance of the 2016 bid before rolling out her special guests:
These two are I presume winners of a kimono beauty pageant.
Queen of Kimono Tokyo.
We had noticed upon arrival the sign for Press Entrance. I figured it would go only to a setup room where the Press could get their cameras and lenses ready, so we didn’t think to explore it early. Then I saw all these guys arrayed on the roof:
A lot of lenses pointing down.
I figured that’s where the bulk of the PRESS were, so we had better go follow them. Of course we have no press credentials, but we just went on up anyay. On the roof top at the fifth floor we were greeted by a reception desk handing out PRESS packs, authorising people with PRESS name tags, and strapping people into the scaffolding they’d built to see over the roof’s fencing.
We walked strtaight up to the fence, boldly past the reception desk, and set our things down and began to set up our cameras. Then one of the organizers came over and started questioning SY in Japanese. I could just about follow it- it was clear she was asking our names and for our PRESS credentials. I wasn’t sure at all what SY was saying to her at first, and was ready to jump in with my cover story- I’m reporting for the International News Blog ‘The Global Post’, which sounds impresssive and is helped by being actually true.
The Global Post is a new website that conglomerates news sources from dozens of reporters and embedded bloggers around the world. They asked me months ago if I was willing to let my stuff be on their site, and I said yes. You can see it here, my stuff at the bottom in the blog feed.
Anyway, I held my tongue and soon enough SY was pulling out a business card from her wallet and the facts clicked into place. She works in marketing for a major scientific journal, and was trying to hoodwink the lady into thinking she also did reporting, but we hadn’t had time to book ourselves in in advance. The lady was sceptical and said to SY- ‘isn’t that a Science journal?’ SY said yes, but sometimes we branch out.
The woman smiled, acceded, encouraged us to take many photos of the beautiful kimono and handed us our PRESS pass and pack.
SY shows off.
I too show off.
After that approval it fell only to climb the scaffold and take shots, which we duly did.
Red umbrellas posed like the Hi no Maru (Japanese flag).
After posing and being enthusiastic to the command of a film crew to our left for some time, the press disbanded and so did the kimonoites. We continued to shoot from the scaffolding for a while though as we enjoyed it so much.
Reconglomerating, like the liquid metal Terminator in T2.
Around this point I looked straight down and realized the real PRESS hadn’t actually left, but had simply gone down to the ground for the next round of shots. We hurried after them:
From the ground. Now it’s strange for them to look up because there’s nobody up there, but I suppose it’s part of the show.
After this the whole thing really did break up, most of the PRESS left, and kimono enthusiasts milled around posing for shots with friends and taking their own shots. I stalked through their masses like a carnivore, freshly emboldened by my PRESS pass, commanding ladies to pose for photos with the jut of my chin and slight uptick of the camera’s long zoom lens. It was great fun
Bo Peep in Kimono with kasa.
Through the looking glass.
A little kid outside gets into the spirit of things.
You can see all MJG’s Tokyo content here:
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