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Monday, May 16, 2011

Burmese Water Festival in Hibiya Park

水祭り ミャンマー

Burmese Water Festival in Hibiya Park, Tokyo


Tokyo’s Hibiya Park was the scene of the Thingyan, or Water Festival, for the city’s Burmese population. The Water Festival marks the start of the Burmese New Year. After a wet week, the sun came out on the day, making for a pleasant enough afternoon in the park.

The festival was clearly on the oppositional side of Myanmar’s political fence, with several posters expressing support for Aung San Suu Kyi, and a speaker on the stage, too, appealing for the overthrow of the present military regime.

Burmese people had to pay to attend, but it was free to non-Burmese, of which there were a few. The festival was not packed, but enough were there to make for a buzz to the air (ignoring that other buzz that tried to pass for music from the stage: tuneless shouting by two girls dressed like they were going to church to the accompaniment of dully drummed and badly played heavy metal-like sounds.)

The din from the stage was replaced at times by Burmese dancing, which was a little easier to take in.

Burmese Water Festival Hibiya Park, Tokyo

There were several food stalls. It was Burmese fare, but pretty uninspiring, and overpriced at a flat 500 yen.

Maybe I just got there too late or left too early, but the most disappointing thing of all was the lack of the water dousing that is supposed to be the whole point of the Thingyan.

Coincidentally, though, on the way home, far from Hibiya Park, down a backstreet of Akihabara I saw three Japanese boys squirting each other in the street with a giant garish water gun - so that kind of put the icing on the somewhat disappointing Thingyan cake.

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