The painful truth is, if I tie a bandana around my head and strap a drum to my body I just don’t look cool. I’ve tried. And that’s what separates me from being one of those guys who can pull off anything. In fact, I don’t really pull off much at all. I look awkward just walking down the street–even with sunglasses.
That’s why Eisa is so cool. The premise is to strap a drum to yourself, dance around with about thirty other people in a big field, all the while banging the drum, in unison, in time with the music … all the while looking cool enough to cause fleeting fantasies of divorce to cross the minds of the audience members. Sure, you have help. The drums are a striking red, and big enough to hide even my spare tire. The traditional garb is fashioned of bright yellows, reds, blues and greens of flowing cotton and silk cloth. It’s pretty hard not to look cool under these conditions. Unless, like me, you dance like a pop tart. When I do Eisa it looks more like dominoes. That’s why I just watch.
Last week in Toyota City the yearly Aichi Prefecture Eisa Matsuri was held. It’s an all day affair — 8 hours of Eisa Taiko in the August heat. By the end, most of the audience has liquified into a pool of Orion Beer. But, if you can stand the heat and the booming drums, it’s an amazing show. The atmosphere is so alive and so friendly you might feel for a moment like the people fanning themselves next to you are actually close friends. That’s the way it often is at Okinawan events. People just start liking each other more. Even if they’re not actually Okinawan. Even if, by day, they’re the typical angry, pushy and remorseless subway jumpers that define my morning commute. Here at the Eisa Festival everyone is friends again. And that’s the way it ought be.