Samurai Festival 2024 relived the Age of War

Samurai Festival 2024 was fun. It was three days of armor, katanas, dance, and music. Oh yeah, don’t forget lots of food and drink but I wasn’t there for that. I concentrated on the stage performers and their swordplay. They brought the Sengoku period to life.

What is the Sengoku period?

It was a time in Japanese history when civil war raged for more than 100 years. Various factional leaders raised massive armies to unite the country. Ieyasu Tokugawa finally accomplished that in 1603.

What photo gear did I use for this event?

Camera body: Fujifilm X-T3

Lenses: Fujifilm XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR and XF 55-200 mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

How was the Samurai Festival 2024 photography experience?

It was a really good day. But in some cases it was challenging. The crowd was big. I had to wait for people to leave. Occasionally, I could move my way between people and steal a position.

I photographed for about three hours. In total, I saw seven acts. They were:

  • Benizakura Kenbukai
  • Burakuza
  • Katana CT
  • Kenbukai Edge Shidenryu
  • Rin-Pa
  • Sakura Yuki and Yasuhiro Ono
  • Okatou

Most of the groups did sword fighting displays, but not all. Sakura Yuki and Yasuhiro Ono sang. Burakuza did massive ink drawings. All of them were great, but I think most went to the Samurai Festival to see some whirling katanas.

Everything was timed to music. Some of it was modern and loud. Other pieces were classically Japanese. It added a little extra punch to the swordplay. Katana CT especially used it to great effect.

If you are into the samurai and Sengoku-Jidai (Period of Warring States) the stage was solid, free fun. Every group brought something unique to their performances. And that pleasantly surprised me.

Before going, I thought the show would be formulaic, like a Power Rangers. Not exactly. Each group and performer was unique. Here is some of what I saw:

Rin-Pa: An all-girl group that had just returned from an overseas tour. Actually, one or two guys were on the team, but in supporting roles. If I understood things correctly, they were the villains.

This group had a slick production. Everyone could use a sword. However, I did see one member slip and go down hard on the stage. But she got up and carried on as if nothing happened. What a trooper.

Rin-Pa also incorporated into their act. They were fun and lively. I hope to see them again. They are active (see their Facebook page here), so that will probably happen.

Katana CT: These were comedians. They incorporated some modern elements into their act. James Bond even played a part. I won’t spoil it by saying any more, but if you like slapstick, you’ll love them.

Kenbukai Edge Shidenryu: These people were very high energy. They put that into their swords, Japanese dance, and singing. The result was a powerful performance.

Did female samurai exist?

Yes, they did. They were called Onna-Musha. They didn’t number that many, but they had their role in the Sengoku period. They were well represented at Samurai Festival 2024. That’s for sure

What was the biggest problem at the festival?

Have you ever photographed an event like this? It’s challenging. For the Samurai Festival, the stage was covered as you’d expect. That created shadows. But right next to them was bright sunlight.

So lighting changed as soon as the performer moved around the stage. That made photography hard. The only thing I could think of to help me was to use auto ISO. I let the camera control it for me, and it did a good job. It wasn’t the perfect solution, but it made my life easier.

Where was the festival?

It was at Ueno Park next to Fountain Plaza.

Wrapping up

The Samurai Festival 2024 combined Japan’s Sengoku period with a food festival. It attracted crowds who hungered for armor, katanas, dance, and music. Of course, there was food and drink, too. Everyone was happy.

The sword-fighting displays brought the samurai and their Sengoku period back to life. Each group surpassed expectations. It was fun and luckily for us and the performers, completely bloodless. They showed there is still an enduring fascination with Japan’s rich historical heritage. A new generation will keep it going.

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