JFF in Prague Preparations

Japan Folk Festival in Prague

Last week, we traveled to Kanazawa to meet with two of the groups who will be joining the festival in March. First was the Kanazawa Subayashi Hozonkai, who practice a rare style of music meant to entertain inside Japan’s traditional teahouses.

The members of this group are remarkable for their dedication to a traditional Japanese art that has largely disappeared. Their style of music was developed from the shamisen repertoire to be perfectly suited for the intimate space where small dinner parties are entertained by geisha.

Geisha may be many people’s quintessential image of Japan, but actually it can be difficult to see these types of traditional performances – the cost of an evening of entertainment from a geisha typically reaches tens of thousands of yen, and many teahouses are open by invitation only.

Furthermore, the style of music that this group performs is unique to the city of Kanazawa. Subayashi, meaning “pure” or “simple” accompaniment, is taught today only by very select numbers of teachers.

Fortunately, Ms. Kineya of the association is happy to share this amazing culture with visitors from other countries. JFF regularly hosts a group from Spain, who are able to watch live practices of subayashi music and dance. The performances are always exceptionally well-received.

In addition to the logistics of performing in a large hall ? very different from their usual atmosphere ? the geisha were very concerned with the difficulty of transporting wigs and other traditional accoutrements all the way to Prague! However, we were all sure that the effort will definitely be worth it to share this amazing culture with the audiences there.