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Saturday, August 27, 2016

35th Asakusa Samba Carnival Contest: Exuberance on the Streets of Tokyo

浅草サンバカーニバル


Decorated float the the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival Contest, Asakusa, Tokyo, 2016.
Partytime! A float at the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival, Asakusa, Tokyo, 2016
Easygoing, fun-loving, downtown Asakusa is one of Tokyo's most colorful areas even on an ordinary day - but positively dazzles at the end of August each year with the huge, Brazilian-inspired Asakusa Samba Carnival. This event recreating Rio in Tokyo is a celebration of dance, performance and music that has become part of Asakusa's heart and soul over the past three decades, and draws crowds of up to half a million - rivaling that other huge annual Asakusa event, the Sanja Matsuri.

Porta bandeira at the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo, Japan, 2016.
Porta bandeira at the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo, 2016
The 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival happened again today at 1pm - the contest beginning at 1.30pm - and ended five spectacular, unbridled, kaleidoscopic hours later at 6pm. The approaching typhoon meant gray skies and scattered rain, but that didn't deter anyone. The streets were a blaze of color and dancing, and were packed with exuberant spectators who, although on the sidelines, radiated just as much excitement as the participants.

35th Asakusa Samba Carnival in Asakusa, Tokyo with Skytree behind.
Tokyo Skytree forms backdrop to 2016 Asakusa Samba Festival
17 samba teams from around Japan took part today: veterans such as G.R.E.S. Uniao dos Amadores and G.R.E.S. Barbaros - both associated with the Carnival since its very beginning in 1981 - to relative newcomers like G.R.E.S. Sol Nascente, for whom this was their sixth carnival.

Asakusa Samba Carnival parade in front of Sensoji Temple's Kaminarimon Gate, Tokyo, 2016.
Asakusa Samba Carnival parade in front of Sensoji Temple's Kaminarimon Gate

The Carnival being a contest ensures that the teams are giving it their all, and the bad weather didn't stand a chance against the mass enthusiasm. Each team whirled, gyrated, twisted and leaped to the samba sounds pumped out from each float. The costumes, floats, dancing and performing skills had to be seen to be believed: imaginative, intricate, inimitable.

A train-themed float at the Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo, Japan, 2016.
Train-themed float at the Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo
Japan has a large Brazilian population, and the participating teams include numerous Brazilian members; however, the vast majority of participants are Japanese, many of whom have spent time in Brazil absorbing and perfecting their carnival skills.

Feathered passistas dance at 2016 Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo, Japan.
Feathered passistas dance at 2016 Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo, Japan.
The contest was divided into two leagues. The S1 League is of teams of between 150 and 300 people and including the four essential elements of a carnival team: the comissao de frente (the lead group) the porta bandeira (flag bearer), the mestre sala (man dancing with the porta bandeira at the head of the group), and baianas (the women dancing in big hooped dresses). The S1 League winners this year were the formidable G.R.E.S. Barbaros (i.e. "Barbarians" - not named so for nothing!)

Jugglers and baianas at the 2016 Asakusa Samba Festival, Tokyo, Japan.
Baiana dancers and jugglers, 2016 Asakusa Samba Festival, Tokyo, Japan.
The S2 League is of teams of 30 to 150 members and doesn't require the full complement of the above four carnival elements. The ICU Lambs were the S2 League winners this year.

Barbaros team's bandeiras at the 2016 Asakusa Samba Festival, Tokyo, Japan.
Banners of the winning S1 League Barbaros team, 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival, 2016
The carnival climaxes during the last hour, 5 to 6pm, when the competition is at its hottest and the dancers and performers are at one with each other, the atmosphere, and the crowds - giving it everything they've got, absorbing and exuding carnival energy.

Starting just outside the Ekimise shopping building housing the Tobu Skytree Line's Asakusa Station, the parade goes down to and right into Kaminarimon Avenue, past the huge red Kaminarimon Gate of Sensoji Temple, and finishes a few hundred meters further on at Sushiya-dori.

People from all over the world converge on the 2016 Asakusa Samba Carnival and Competition, 2016.
The whole world enjoys the 35th Asakusa Samba Festival and Contest 2016 in Tokyo
Enjoy these pictures of the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival held on August 27, 2016, in Asakusa, Tokyo.

Jugglers juggle at the 2016 Asakusa Samba Festival and Contest, Tokyo, Japan.
Jugglers at the 2016 Asakusa Samba Parade, Tokyo, Japan.
Palm tree costumes at the 2016 Asakusa Samba Carnival and Contest, Tokyo, Japan.
Palm trees at the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival and Contest, Tokyo.
Drummers in parade at the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo, Japan.
Drumming parade at the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival, 2016
Boat themed float of G.R.E.S. Barbaros at the 2016 Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo, Japan 2016.
Boat-themed float of G.R.E.S. Barbaros at the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival, Tokyo.
Want the CD of the 35th Asakusa Samba Carnival songs? Inquire with GoodsFromJapan.

Read about the 2016 Brazil Festival in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.

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