A festive beat unbroken since Edo times, Contemporary performance art and Ikebukuro.
A performance tour to encounter citizens playing the sounds of their neighborhood on 100 drums
The local event with roots in the Edo period, Kishimojin Oeshiki. Thousands march down the nighttime streets striking taiko drums, the powerful beat sending vibrations throughout the city. Another procession, a multiethnic throng, joins the crowd, driven by its diverse beats. Upon the urban stage that is Ikebukuro, a brand-new production from playwright Natsuki Ishigami, Chinese artist Xiao Ke x Zi han and music producer Ryoichi Kiyomiya is performed.
The beautiful sound of the neighbor’s drum beat
Kishimojin Oeshiki is a traditional festival of Zoshigaya, a downtown neighborhood with nostalgic streets and friendly community about 10 minutes’ walk southeast of Ikebukuro. The northwest side of Ikebukuro station, on the other hand, is home to a community of diverse nationalities and cultures, especially Chinese residents. One night in October 2019, as the taiko drums boom among the parading people of Zoshigaya, another Oeshiki will arise on the opposite side of the station. The diverse beats of this parade will encounter and join the local Oeshiki, then they will together wind their way to Kishimojin Temple, originally built to worship an Indo-Japanese goddess.
[Flow of the tour performance]
Ticket holders will be received at Nishi-Ikebukuro Park, and the performance will begin by seeking out resident performers around town. After parading the streets of Ikebukuro to the beat of the local performers’ original taiko drumming, composed by artists, the procession will join the local groups of the Oeshiki. The tour ends after 3.5 hours or so with a visit to the Kishimojin Temple.
Nearby distant neighbors
The Oeshiki of Zoshigaya involves walking the streets late into the evening to the beat of taiko drums. Those who hear the sound are said to be connected to Buddha.
Some years ago, I was involved in a “tolerance survey” of Japanese society with regard to foreigners living in Japan. The biggest thing that Japanese people wanted foreigners to abide by was to “not make a lot of noise in big groups”. The third thing was “to not make a lot of loud sounds late at night”. Particularly intolerant were Japanese people “with less sense of being part of the local community”.
Whether you feel a taiko drum of your neighbor to be music or noise, we may be connected by karma anyway. I wish that by sharing this moment with empathy, the spirit of Oeshiki can ease the isolation and division of our society.
Can those who we have never met before, of different languages and cultures, walk together and create a new Oeshiki? Can we get through this intolerance in the public space and make it through to Zoshigaya? I look forward to beating my drum of solitude and taking 3 hours to savor what is usually a 20-minute walk.
[What is Oeshiki]
Oeshiki began as a Buddhist event to pray for the soul of the priest Nichiren. For three nights from October 16 to 18 in Zoshigaya, thousands of people hoist up lantern covered poles decorated with flowers of white Japanese paper made to imitate the weeping cherry tree. Their procession moves through the streets while they strike uchiwa daiko drums. This exotic spectacle has been a fixture of the autumn calendar for people here since the days of Edo.
The Oeshiki of Zoshigaya is called the Kishimojin Oeshiki, because it is centered on the temple that worships Kishimojin, a goddess whose likeness is said to have been unearthed in the district. The festival is known for its openness to including all believers, not just those of the Nichiren school.
In addition to the temple (Ikozan Houmyoji), the Oeshiki Association made up of 21 groups of local residents spends almost the whole year preparing for the event, so it is one that is deeply rooted in the lives of people here. It was designated as an intangible cultural heritage in 2015 as a unique local custom.
[Witness the BEAT for yourself]
Why not bear witness to the BEAT live performances on the streets of Ikebukuro, in the park or on the footpath? We hope that you enjoy the music together and cheer on the musicians.
It will be held October 16-18 between 7pm and 8pm in locations including Naka-Ikebukuro Park and Green-Odori Avenue.
Times and locations may change.
For details, please check this website, the special event website and the Culture City of East Asia 2019 Toshima Twitter account (@culturecityTSM).
Photo © Ryuichiro Suzuki 鈴木竜一朗