Fun Times at the Osaka Lindy Exchange

 Photo by Hideaki Okamatsu

Photo by Hideaki Okamatsu

Editor’s Note: We asked Bay Area dancer Tracy Lee to write up her experiences as a Japanese-American going to her first lindy event in Japan. Here’s what she shared.

When I first impulsively bought my ticket to the Osaka Lindy Exchange, which took place from October 19 to October 21, I didn’t know what to expect. The one thing I personally knew about Osaka was that the people tend to be very warm and open. So I asked around my local scene in the Bay Area about what Osakan dancers were like. People told me that the scene is relatively small, but they make up for it by partying hard. Sounded intriguing!

The event was larger than I expected. There were a couple hundred people in attendance hailing from different parts of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. There were a good handful of Europeans and Americans visiting as well. Unexpectedly, I was not the only person from the Bay Area there; two other dancers from my scene ended up at the same event completely by chance.

The number of people there was especially felt in the smaller bar venues we were at for the Friday main dance and the Saturday Late Night. I had a conversation about it with the organizer of the fledgling scene in Kobe (a city just outside Osaka) and he informed me that venue space was one of the key struggles they faced. Cities in Japan are dense, and large dance floors are hard to come by.

 Photo by Hideaki Okamatsu

Photo by Hideaki Okamatsu

Despite the number of people who were there, I was struck by how personal the event felt. I’ve attended both small and mid-sized workshop weekends, but the Osaka Lindy Exchange might have been the most intimate dance weekend I’ve experienced to date. Dancers participated in the music, band members joined in the dancing, and the instructors were so accessible that Moe Sakan’s father even made a guest appearance one night. It was a stark difference from some of the events I’ve been to stateside, where dancers tend not to interact much with the musicians and people self-stratify by experience or skill level.

 Vincenzo Fesi and Moe Sakan by Hideaki Okamatsu

Vincenzo Fesi and Moe Sakan by Hideaki Okamatsu

My friends back home were correct about how hard Osakans party. At the Saturday Late Night, the dance floor was still packed and going strong at 4:30am.

 Photo by   Hideaki Okamatsu

Overall, the event was a very special experience. Events all over Japan have been dedicating this year for the 20th anniversary of Frankie’s first visit to Japan and the founding of the first Japanese lindy hop organization in Tokyo, and it contributed a lot to the energy on the dance floors. I felt such a pure wealth of heart and lindy spirit that I’m surprised there isn’t more of a spotlight outside Asia on the talent and passion Japanese dancers and dance bands possess. Undoubtedly, there’s an information gap—I had to break the news to a DJ from Tokyo I befriended that SFLX hasn’t been held for the past four years, for example—but I see our communities potentially growing closer if we open more avenues of communication with each other.

 Eiji Nishida and Mariko Okamoto by Hideaki Okamatsu

Eiji Nishida and Mariko Okamoto by Hideaki Okamatsu

So, if you’re planning on being in Japan soon, visit one of the local venues! You can learn more on the Japanese Swing Dance Association’s national directory, which has information about the regional scenes in both Japanese and English.