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Monday, May 01, 2006

Chindonya troupe

チンドン屋

Chindonya performer, Tokyo. "Chindonya" are a colorful, yet dying, tradition in Japan. "Chin" is onomatopoeic for the clash of cymbals, "don" for the bang of drums. "ya" simply means "someone who does".

A chindonya troupe consists of usually three lavishly attired and heavily made up women who perform with percussion and wind to conjure up an appealing and lighthearted atmosphere and either walk through the town with some sort of bulletin printed and shouted, or perform outside a business and so attract people into the premises.

Admittedly I hadn't seen much in the way of chindonya, but didn't think anything of it. It was the Japanese friend I was with who recounted how he remembered them being a lot more common in his childhood, i.e. three decades ago, and that they are a rarity now in Tokyo and - by extension - everywhere else in Japan. Tradition has come full circle, it seems, and has achieved the status of novelty!

Chindonya performing troupe. They are very much in the tradition of the maiko: much like a geisha but for the lower classes who, like her more sophisticated counterpart, sings, plays, raconteurs, pours drinks, and generally makes her charges feel at home, merry, stimulated and relaxed. This troupe's wind instrument was a clarinet, beautifully played, and the premises were a pachinko parlor in Tokyo's center of youth culture, Shibuya.

Listen to the chindonya perform (Click photos to enlarge)


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