Japan Atlas: Festivals


Date: Last Saturday in August

Place: Tokyo

Number of Visitors: 500,000

Lively and Joyful Samba Rhythms Strike a Chord in the Hearts of the Japanese

The Asakusa Samba Carnival is held annually, on a Saturday towards the end of August, in Asakusa, Tokyo. Attracting about 500,000 sightseers who fall under the spell of the passionate rhythms of the samba, the event has a strong international flavor.

As a town that grew up around a temple, Asakusa observes many traditional festivals, but the Samba Carnival, which started in 1981, is a new event. It started when the Mayor of Taito City (one of the central 23 cities of Tokyo) invited the winning group from that year's Rio Carnival in Brazil, the home of the samba, to put on a display.

The main attraction of the festival is the samba parade contest.

Together with samba teams from the carnival homeland of Brazil, about 3,500 lovers of samba rhythms come from all over Japan. These teams compete to put on the most spectacular dancing and other performances, creating a carnival that is just as wonderful as the one in Rio. Bright eye-catching costumes with beads and plumes of different colors also provide a visual feast. There are also plenty of ingenious devices that embody original ideas, including flower-decked floats on motor vehicles and allegoria handcarts with sound systems.

Usually thirty to forty teams compete for prizes and they are divided into three leagues. The top league comprises dancers who are seriously committed to dancing real Brazilian samba, those who put on original dances with a high degree of technical skill, and musicians who can expertly play South American percussion instruments. The teams give powerful displays. Some teams decide a theme for the year, for example "Star Wars," and the unified design of beautiful costumes is stunning.

In leagues 2 and 3, the participants are basically there to enjoy dancing the samba and being part in the fancy costume parade that comes together on the day. Many of these teams have a comical aspect that will make you laugh.

Photo: Samba parade contest (Asakusa Shoten Rengo Kai)

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