Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I finally had chance to join Daisuke, Sean, his father-in-law Hashimoto-san and some of the Ushijima Kiyari guys last week in Asakusa for one of their Edo Kiyari practice sessions.

Last May coming home from my first THJ trip I was in the car with these three guys when Hashimoto-san launched into song swiftly backed up by a chorus of Sean and Daisuke. It was like being back down the Laleston Inn with Slim, Johnny, Peter and the boys. The sounds were totally different of course but there was something about the ritual of it all that reminded of the Welsh Male Voice Choirs. It didn't take much to imagine the boys back home getting into it, especially after a few bevs.

These guys meet up twice about month for practice and do weddings, izakaya restaurant openings, anything... They've played the Tokyo Dome before a baseball match but no-one was taking things too seriously tonight.

Edo Kiyari originally started as lumber work songs back in the Edo period and typically have a leader and a chorus. I'd heard something similar before at the Onbashira Matsuri in Nagano but these guys told me their version in Asakusa was different. Even in other parts of Tokyo like nearby Nihonbashi the style is slightly different to what these guys do in Asakusa. Always a long, drawn out lead stretching out before the bellowing chorus joins in to support. There were eight guys tonight, less than half the full group so you could just imagine the power they'd build up for a full performance. Awesome stuff.

After an hour, practice was over and we went for some yakitori nearby. I got chance to chat to some of the other guys who had all been brought up with their fathers and grandfathers singing Kiyari and their fathers before them. They just knew what sounds good and natural and what doesn't. Suzuki-san, sounding like a guy who'd been born into it, said there wasn't really a wrong way to sing, the key part was that the chorus followed the leader and you just adjusted to whatever the rest were doing. You needed to feel it in your heart and then it would all just flow.

I could have back in S. Wales listening to Laleston's prime chorister, Mr. Peter Wright.

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