Home > Japan, Pictures > Taiko!!!

Taiko!!!

08/12/2009

I am constantly surprised at how well my Japanese ability has manifested itself over four years of study. It’s like a sneaky ninja. (As opposed to a loud and boisterous one, I guess.) When it’s dormant, it’s almost as if it’s not even there. The year I spent away from school, making hardly any effort at all to learn Japanese, I felt as if I would lose it forever. Words were escaping me, grammar points were leaking like a sieve, and you can pretty much forget about me writing any kanji more difficult than “naka.” I know that doesn’t mean much to you all, but I haven’t installed the Japanese script on my computer yet, and the only way I can write in Japanese now is by changing my keyboard into a Japanese one, meaning I will have no idea where all my keys are. Also, it all shows up in katakana, like so: モミコヒヒソトシニクチハナキニチハクチシトクチナシトテイタイススカスミキ. That is complete gibberish, but if you must know it says: momikohihisotoshinikuchihanakinichihaku…etc. That’s pretty much the equivalent to a “face hit keyboard” moment.

But enough of that! What has been going on in my life since I last wrote? Well, this Saturday one of the other JETs in Nakatsu (our prefectural adviser who goes by the name of Kate) had a Taiko drum performance with her group. She has been doing Taiko drumming for more than a year now. So we all packed into a typically tiny little Japanese vehicle and went to the old peoples’ home where they were performing. It was a part of a tiny little festival just over the border into Fukuoka prefecture. It was great fun, and the performance was quite good, though I must confess that was the first time I had seen anyone doing Taiko, so my ability to distinguish good Taiko from bad Taiko is pretty much non-existent. I swear to you all right now that I have been taking pictures, and once I get more than just 30 minutes at a computer with internet, you will be entirely overwhelmed by them. There are also some movies I have taken with my new “Flip” camera, which is awesome.

During the Taiko drum performance, there was one piece which involved a few characters other than the taiko drummers. Two men dressed up as “oni”, or demons, came out and began dancing and prancing around, all around having a good time, until two protectors or something of that ilk showed up and began to wrangle them, trying to get them under control. The oni then escaped into the crowd and began searching for victims. Children literally scattered in terror when they saw these (admittedly quite scary looking) oni coming towards them. Every once in a while the oni would pick a child, pick them up, and spin them around. The sounds of babies and young children crying filled the air as the adults laughed. It was yet again a truly Japanese experience, I think. In America, these oni would have probably been punched in the face by one of the parents for making their child cry. Here, it’s all part of the growing up experience. As we were the only three foreigners in the crowd, I half expected us to make quite good prey for the oni. Regrettably (though I’m sure Natalie and Emily will say luckily) they did not seem to notice us, and didn’t come after us as they searched the crowd.

On Sunday was another festival (It’s Obon season right now in Japan, a period of time when the Japanese welcome back their ancestors, who come to visit. Because of this, there are lots of festivals and things going on, as the Japanese do their best to welcome their ancestors back in style. Sunday was a lantern festival in Nakatsu. Originally the plan had been for the girls to wear their yukata, but it looked like rain, and those things are extremely heavy, and it was hot. Instead, we walked around checking out the lanterns lining the streets of Tera-Machi (Temple row), a long street filled with temples on either side. There were displays with candles lit everywhere, letting the ancestors know where to return. There were monks chanting, and even a few bands playing here and there. It was a very homely, warm festival, though nothing like a festival in the major cities. Another attraction as we walked through the lantern lit roads was called “akakabe” or the red wall. Legend has it that there was a big samurai battle at that wall, and that it was so bloody the wall literally bled red through its white color. Even after repainting, the wall kept turning red with blood. In the end, they just painted it red to hide it, and it’s been painted red ever since.

Nakatsu is a great little city. It’s big enough that there are things to do around town besides drink, and close enough to major hubs like Oita city and Fukuoka (about an hour plus by train or car) so that escape is possible. My apartment is slowly coming together as well. I’ve got curtains, kitchen appliances, and a chair! It’s quite a comfortable one at that. I think I’ll be spending quite a lot of money on my apartment getting it all set up the way I want. I figure since I’m going to be here for at least a year, I should make it liveable, ne?

Send me an e-mail sometime letting me know how you’re doing! This can’t be a one way street you know. For example, I’d like to know what exactly is going on in Brookline. I had originally written that I also wanted to find out how Becca’s move was going, but she beat me to the punch. If it’s a short e-mail, you can even send it directly to my phone, my phone’s e-mail address (isn’t that weird?! A phone has an e-mail address) is dslootbeek@docomo.ne.jp I must stress though, that if you’re going to send me walls upon walls of text, please send it to my gmail, because it costs more for longer e-mails.

There will be lots more later! I’m actually writing this at work on my laptop, but I feel confident that I look like I’m doing valuable work. There really isn’t anything for me to do at the moment. There are no classes, and you can only plan so much until you out plan yourself. I’m teaching kids basic English, so there will be lots of playing of games, and very little actual English learning 😀

-Dash

There are many more pictures here as usual. Woo!

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