Friday, September 01, 2006

Dancing and earthquakes

I've settled in at school for the most part, so I have a bit more time to do some things I want. I do mean for the most part; every day is something new, and I certainly have my troubles and disappointments. But I have my victories too—particularly with the kids. My favorite story so far is of the young girl who cried uncontrollably the first two times I taught her, but now appears to be genuinely excited to see me, and races to get her shoes off before class. It makes me feel that, while I may not be the most polished or effective teacher, at least I have something in me that she finds safe and, well, fun. It's not a trait I thought I had, and it makes me happy in a way I haven't known before.

Got an email from my friend Maya from San Francisco State, who is living in Tokyo with her boyfriend Eric, also a classmate at SFSU. We met up at Ben's Cafe in Takadanobaba (where they serve some fine coffee, a rarity in Tokyo, as anywhere else), then met Eric later and went to a Hawaiian burger restaurant in Harajuku.

The real highlight lately, though, was last week's Awa odori festival in Kouenji, west of Shinjuku. It's a festival that originated on the island of Shikoku, and the biggest celebration is still held there, in Tokushima (once called Awa). But it is popular all over Japan, and there were several processions in Tokyo itself.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organisation, the "Dance of Fools" started in Tokushima in 1587 when the townspeople danced like fools because they were drunk from the sake given to them by their feudal lord. Over the years it has been tamed and reduced to representative steps, but all the same it is a pleasure to witness and, even more I'm sure, a joy to participate in.

The instruments play an important part in all Japanese festivals, and are the real backbone of the entertainment in the Awa odori.

The kids joined in on the fun, of course.

Finally, yesterday we had quite a shock: while I was waiting for students to show up in the Shinjuku school, the building suddenly started shaking; though I've been in several earthquakes in San Francisco and Tokyo, this was sudden and more frightening. If it had lasted for any length of time I imagine it would have caused some damage.

The next day, yesterday, was the anniversary of the last huge earthquake in Tokyo, the great Kanto earthquake of 1923. I'm sure there's no relationship.


Anonymous said...

If you have a chance, come down to Tokushima-shi next year, and meet up with me for the real deal. I swear, I had seen the thing on TV, but being in an entire city that was swept up in the dance... it was amazing. And actually being able to dance, you're right, is great. I think us foreigners can do participate in this one 'ren', for a little money (for the yukata rental, which is mandatory). Anyway, glad you got to see it all the way up there in Tokyo (my village sent a group of kids and adults, real professionals, called Sudachi-ren... it's very possible you saw them -- there's this 5 year old from my nursery school who can dance as good as the pros, in that group).

Take care! And mark it down next year in your calendar!

keisetsu said...

I have actually considered that. If I can get vacation, I will. But honestly, I may see about joining one of the rens here, because I'd love to participate in it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I didn't identify myself... this is Rich, incase you didn't know. But yeah, if you come down to Tokushima, I can put you up. I mean, I live outside of the city, but at least I'll have room at my place. I plan on having a lot of friends over for Awa Odori! It's an amazing thing, the whole city. And I'll see about joining rens here, for general info. Later!

keisetsu said...

I figured it was you, Rich ;). Thanks for the offer!