end-of-summer samba

sambaI can’t imagine what the Asakusa Samba Festival was like this year. The whole week leading up to it was all lightning and thunder and this Saturday was a drench. Thankfully I avoided it, like I do every year. It’s all color and noise and crowds, but for me it signals only one thing: the end of summer. It’s always held at the end of August, just when the afternoons noticeably shorten and the sunlight turns warmer in tone and cooler on the skin.

It may seem an odd import and an even odder way to send off the season, but the Samba Festival is Japanese down to the bones. There’s little spontaneity in it, and the forms you need to fill to be able to shoot it are among the longest I’ve seen. They read like legal documents. And the escolas, dance teams, try hard–but really too hard. They make a science of it.

Actually the samba season isn’t over yet. The teams are real troopers, and will perform here and there at small towns and neighborhood shopping arcades (here’s one coming up on Sept. 6 in Tateishi) even until it gets cold. By then they look like tropical birds, shivering and feathers faded.

These photos aren’t new, and they aren’t from the Asakusa event. They show a champion escola giving their all at a small community event in Shinjuku. I took them a summer ago but never found a place for them. I promised I’d parade them out this year, just before the book closes on another season.