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Bentenya x Route 66 Film Production Committee
September 2023
Vol. 1

Chindon-ya, Bentenya, get their kicks on Route66 
and bring Japanese culture to your town.

Chindon-ya, a unique promoter from Japan

Chindonya is a troupe of street musicians and performers dressed in elaborate costume who are hired to draw customers to shops.  Little known to the public, chindon is a truly unique subculture of Japan. Its importance in Japanese cultural history lies in its role as the root of popular culture and of the advertising industry.


A Japanese rice ball is called "Onigiri." Often triangular or oval in shape, it is filled with variou

ingredients—pickled plums (umeboshi), salmon, tuna, or other savory fillings—and wrapped in nori (seaweed).

Chindon represents a well-known philosopher Tsurumi Shusuke’s concept of Marginal Art which is closely related to the definition of popular culture as daily cultural environment. Hearing the success of the first chindon man Amekatsu, the owner of a nearby Yose theater hired him to get people to his theater, thus giving an impetus for advertising business in Japan.


Onigiri is a beloved food in Japan that is enjoyed by people of all ages, from kids to adults. Whether it is in a child's lunchbox, a quick on-the-go snack for adults, or even part of a traditional Japanese breakfast, onigiri has a wide appeal and cultural significance in Japan. In recent years, it has been gaining popularity in New York and Los Angeles similar to that of sushi and ramen.

Chindon sound echoes throughout the world

Although its origin can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century (1845) when a candy salesman named Amekatsu in Osaka, Japan, used noisemakers and songs to draw the business, chindonya, which was initially called tozaiya in Osaka and hiromeya in Tokyo, had become widespread after the Meiji Restoration of 1868.  As the free-market economy grew in post-feudal Japan,so was the demand for advertising.  Hiromeya hired even a brass bandto advertise such new products as toothpaste, red bean paste buns, and cosmetics.  When newspaper and other means of advertising became available, chindonya experienced a setback but remained part of the streetscape.  The current troupe formation consisting of a drummer, a percussionist, and a wind instrumentalist had been created by the 1920s.  The unique instrument played by a percussionist is made up of two small drums and a bell.  


Because of the sound of bell (chin) and that of drum (don), the advertising troupe began to be called chindonya around 1930.   Following the end of WWII during which street performers had been prohibited, chindonya reemerged as local businesses counted on street advertising while waiting for the recovery of other advertising media. During its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s (1952 – 1960), there were 2,500 chindonya troupes across Japan.  Regrettably, with the recession in the 1970s and the rapid development of other advertising media after the 1980s, chindonya has become obsolete and less than 35 professional troupes remain today (Chindonya).  Despite its long history and importance in Japanese society, chindonya is virtually unknown in Japan, let alone the United States. 
Chindon-ya.” Ethnomusicology 60, no. 2 (Spring/Summer 2016): 233 – 262.
Kuwahara, Yasue. 

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