Standing in the huge park with the hot November sun beating down on my back, I couldn’t help but smile as I looked around. There were simply so many people playing and having fun in my line of sight. There’s nothing like a sunny day, watching some outstanding performers, and an encounter with some clowns to chase the blues away…
Daidogei World Cup in Shizuoka 2010. Don’t worry, this post has absolutely nothing to do with football! Daidogei (which means “street performing” in Japanese) is a yearly street performance event which has been running since 1992. The event began “to stimulate understanding of art, local citizen identity, and the local community” (I’m quoting from the Daidogei brochure). Daidogei’s slogan, according to the brochure, is “You will leave with a smile on your face and joy in your heart“. Well, I certainly can’t argue with that! 😀
I first heard about this festival at work. One of the students dropped in a copy of the brochure for everyone to pass around and look at. I was surprised by the unenthusiastic response of my colleagues, but jotted it down in my diary anyway. When I woke up this morning, I still had doubts about attending. It was a grey and cloudy morning, I was tired and comfortable in bed, and I didn’t really want to sit on the train for over an hour to get to Shizuoka. But, I kicked myself out of bed and looked for my spirit of adventure (which has been hiding of late!).
I’m so glad I made the effort! The event was huge – much bigger than I expected! As I arrived at Shizuoka station, clutching my empty coffee cup, I made my way to the tourist information centre. I had been to Shizuoka once, but wanted a map just in case I couldn’t remember the way to Sumpu Park (where I had heard the main events were taking place). I needn’t have worried really though, as I could have easily just followed the crowds, stalls and performers which lined the way. Anyway, the nice lady in the tourist information centre (who spoke English!) gave me a map and drew the best route on it for me.
Off I trotted, and before I knew it I was on Gofukucho-dori, right in the throng of things. One of my first encounters was with a dead-looking clown.
…who was soon rescued by his friends…
I’ve never been a huge fan of clowns (I think most of my generation were put off by Stephen King’s It), but these ones were pretty harmless.
The performers and entertainers came from all over the world, like this face-painter, Lucie Brouillard, who is from Canada.
One of my students had warned me about the expected crowds at Daidogei. I should have guessed that, despite the crowds, being Japan, it would be incredibly organised. The cunningness of the audience amazed me, too. Lots of people came very well equipped, with plastic sheets to sit on, and ladders to climb up on!
The volunteer staff did a really good job of keeping the people with ladders a fair distance back so, actually, it wasn’t too hard to see. I was glad I went to the event on my own, as it meant I was able to duck in and out of small spaces and see a lot more than if I had been with a big group of people.
I soon realised that I would have to do a bit of standing around if I wanted to see some acts in full, so I found an act that was setting up and waited with the growing crowd for it to begin. The performer was Ikeda Yosuke, and here’s the first part of his act:
He was pretty funny, a great mime artist, and did some clever sleight of hand tricks.
As I was wandering down to Sumpu Park, I stumbled upon one of my favourite acts: Teatro Pavana. Teatro Pavana are a professional street theatre company whose acts include stilt-walking. But these were no ordinary stilts…
Three huge, freakily life-like giraffes were just wandering along the street. They were awesome and gorgeous!
I’m amused by the fact that “giraffe” in Japanese is “kirin” (look at the beer sign in the background!)…
Sumpu Park was bursting at the seams with entertainment, and seemed much bigger than the last time I visited.
As soon as I entered the park I walked into a musical troupe called Pao Pao-Do (パオパオ堂). Their costumes and music enchanted me and, actually, I ran into them again at the end of the day as I was leaving the park, which was a bit of a bonus!
I saw so many acts while wandering around the warm, sunny park. At the time, I had no idea who I was watching or how famous they were. I decided not to plan anything, and to just wander between acts. That way, I wouldn’t be disappointed if I missed something. It turns out, I was very lucky and actually saw some brilliant acts, some of which were pretty famous, too.
Here are the highlights:
From Belarus (link above isn’t working at the time of writing this – sorry!)
From Mexico. Princess Elayne was the special guest at this year’s event, after being the world champion last year. She was mesmerizing!
From Japan. This guy juggled with so many random objects. In the photo below, he is juggling with an apple, a bowling ball and a plunger! He also took bites out of the apple as he was juggling!
From the U.S.A.
From the U.S.A. Actually, I have to admit I found Peppi a little creepy…
I really was astounded by the quality of the acts, and the fact that I could see them all for free! There was also a “Premium Night Show”, with tickets costing 2,500 Yen, but I didn’t even consider that. I had more than enough fun with just the free stuff! And it wasn’t just the acts and performances that made me happy. One of my happiest moments all day was when I ran into my clown friends in the park, and they insisted on posing with me for a photo:
Finally, one thing I noticed about Daidogei was that it holds one similarity with the UK’s Red Nose Day. The event is, as far as I know, not for charity, but certain merchandise and goods are sold… including red noses! Well, I’ll keep mine handy for Red Nose Day 2012 when I’m back in the UK!
Other good are sold, including antenna bopper headbands featuring two red noses, Japan’s favourite “eco bags”, and… this gorgeous Hello Kitty doll which I just couldn’t resist!!
This is an official Daidogei Hello Kitty (made in 2008). The original selling price was a whopping 1,800 Yen, but then were selling them for just 500 Yen! Bargain!
So, all in all, a fabulous day was had! Thank you, Daidogei, and thank you to all the performers! 😀
My full collection of photos can be viewed, as usual, on Flickr.