Kawagoe Festival: Right where I Shouldn't be

I haven't written anything on the blog in about 2 weeks. I've been working on a few drafts and thinking about what I want to say and how I want to say it, but I don't want to put out anything shorter in between. I don't like to speak when I have nothing to say, it would only amount in half-hearted articles about my favourite Fuji X lenses or '10 Things all Photographers Do', theres enough of that out there and I don't want to contribute to it. Instead I'd rather share something more meaningful, more planned and more personal even if it means sharing things less. 


In these last two weeks I'd attended the Sakado Yosakoi Festival and the Kawagoe Festival, which you can see more photos from on my facebook and instagram. Japanese festivals are lively, colourful, fun, and most importantly some of the only times I've ever felt like I was a part of my community here. In the 4 days I've spent shooting 2 festivals, I'd met more of my own neighbours than I have in 2 years of living here. 

Last Saturday I woke up at 6 and headed over to the neighbouring city of Kawagoe hours before the massive, 2 day long festival started. None of the food stalls were set up, none of the 2-story tall floats were riding along the closed-off streets yet. Aside from the people setting up, I was the only one there. It gave me some valuable time to find the best spots to head to as the day progressed.

The festival officially started at 10, but it was just passed 9 and already I could feel the atmosphere building up. There was a single float (called a Dashi in Japanese) sitting there and already performers were inside doing their routine. When I started taking photographs, it was only me and an old man with a disposable camera. For about about 40 minutes I was able to work my way around the float and take pictures without wiggling around crowds, which resulted in some pretty intimate photos.

The matsuri had just officially started, and already I was happy with the results from the day. Taking a break from shooting, I walked down an alley away from the growing crowd. A man came running down the street shouting "dashi mairimaaassuuu!", letting everyone know a float was coming down the street in a moment. At the end of the street, crowds of people pulling a massive, 2 story float by ropes came into view. It was one of those, "Ah yeah... I live in Japan..." moments. 

I wanted to get in and get a few photos but the crowds that grew were ridiculous, and there were people on the side of the float pushing people with cameras back to make way. I managed to get to the front of the crowd, and get a few shots... and when I took my eye off the viewfinder, I realised I was actually in the procession of people pulling the shrine, and no-one stopped me. When I realised I shouldn't be there, I kept this certain sense of deliberation and stuck with it. I was hoping that no-one would notice and ask me to back up, and realised this chance could end at any moment.... But the opposite happened. 

When the float stopped for a moment, an old man tapped me on the shoulder. He moved aside and told me to get some shots from where he was standing. We started talking and kept talking even after the procession started moving. I was on the other side of the crowd-control, making small talk with people and no one batted an eye. Until I got too tired, and all my batteries had depleted, I had the opportunity to take photographs no one else did. And I don't even know how it happened...

Thats it. Nothing deeper. No talk about my technique or what lenses I used. Just a story from last weekend. I'd rather stop talking and let the photographs speak instead. So please, check out the gallery below to see some more photos. 

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