Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009
WHERE IT'S AT
|Countdown fun: Professional Japanese dancers
performed Indian dances at the Chak de India Countdown Party
in Nishi Kasai in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward on New Year's Eve.
MARIKO KATO PHOTOS
Countdown party India style
By MARIKO KATO
Almost a quarter of the Indian community in eastern Tokyo, adults
and children alike, shared a lively countdown party with Japanese
locals on Dec. 31.
|Party organizer Manoj Dewan (center) gets
in on the fun, which included food, games and bingo as well.
"Chak de India Countdown Party 2009," held at a venue
in Nishi Kasai in east Tokyo's Edogawa Ward, was attended by 450
people, who enjoyed traditional food, games and disco dancing.
The festivities were preceded by a somber moment of reflection,
as the participants held a minute silence in memory of the victims
of the Mumbai terrorist attacks last November. A part of the event's
proceeds is being sent to those affected by the tragedy.
The party, an annual event since 2004, then came to life as Indian
families and friends chatted with each other, filled up on delectable
cuisine from a variety of Indian regions and vied for prizes in
a bingo game.
About 2,000 Indians live in Nishi Kasai, where many IT-related
firms are located, according to Manoj Dewan, organizer of the
event and manager of the local Indian restaurant chain Spice Magic
|Family affair: Many families attended the
Chak de India Countdown Party, including some 60 children.
"Indians who arrive here collect together because they don't
know about the area and the language," he said. He explained
that people often share information with new residents about cheap
local Indian grocery stores, stores that also enjoy the patronage
of Japanese shoppers.
"This one is even better than last year's," said a
male participant in his 30s of the party. "The food is authentic,
and the bingo gets everyone excited," he added.
Some were attending for the first time. "I learned about
this party through circular mail that goes around the Indian community,"
said a female participant, who attended with her 3-year-old daughter.
"I'm enjoying it actually, because apart from the Indian
festivals, this kind of party is the only big event in the calendar.
It's a great opportunity for the kids to enjoy dancing together,"
she said, adding that although she has lived in Japan for seven
years, she does not know much Japanese.
With two hours to go before the New Year countdown, excitement
reached a climax as professional dancers in traditional Indian
dress took command of the dance floor. Children ran giggling among
them, while the crowd cheered.
For Dewan, it was a highlight that the four female performers
were Japanese. "I made a special request to have them, because
I felt it would be really good for the Indian community to see
Japanese people doing the traditional dance," he explained,
adding that he found the performers were very professional.
After a few sequences, the performers enticed the audience to
join them on the floor, and the music turned to pop disco music
as all prepared to boogie the year away.
First-time attendee Setsuko Wakabayashi, a Japanese local aid
worker who sends support to south India, watched as she enjoyed
"I've lived in Nishi Kasai for 20 years, but I'd never heard
about such events before. I'm glad that they reached out to the
Japanese community," she said. "Nishi Kasai is a great
place to mix, as there is no sense of awkward unfamiliarity with
foreigners here. I'd be interested in attending more events like
this in the future," she added.
Many of the Japanese who joined the party had heard about it
through hearsay, according to Dewan. "We target about 40
to 50 Japanese people when we advertise the event, but many of
those who turned up had contacted me wanting to buy tickets,"
Some of the Japanese mixing with the Indians had actually helped
to set up the event. "I was asked to move the necessary furniture
to the location," said Masaki Kobayashi, director of Asia
Moving, who joined in the dancing with his Japanese friend. "I've
been to study in India before, so this is great fun," he
Dewan hopes to include more interested Japanese residents in
future events. "It's great cultural exchange. It's an opportunity
to be close to the Japanese people, especially those with whom
we live together in Nishi Kasai," he said.
He plans to hold an event to celebrate the Holi festival in March.