Archive for August 20th, 2009

Celeb Status

I’m not sure if any of you know this out there, but I am a really big deal.  In the US, it’s one thing getting asked for my autograph all the time, the paparazzi always interrupting my conversations with Lindsey and Mary-Kate for a photo-op, etc, but in Japan, I mean, they take it to a whole new level.  Since arriving, I have already met not one, but two, of the mayors in the Shimokita Peninsula.  Also, I am invited to all the coolest parties.

For example, last week, Ellie and I were invited to the Oma Matsuri (Festival) where we went to pre-game at the Oma mayor’s house.  As I’ve become accustomed to, we had some pretty delicious maguro (tuna) sashimi and got to witness the getting-ready chanting ritual, which was pretty cool.  (I’d like to be able to embed the video but have yet to figure out how to change the file to a form wordpress allows.)  Then, we got to pull the big light-up float, see below, which was not that difficult, as there were little kids also helping pull.  When the floats (of which there were four) arrived at the jinja (shrine), they proceeded to crack open large barrells of sake and pass it around, toasting everyone’s good health.  My kind of party!

Oma Matsuri Float

On Sunday, we were also invited to the Hebiura (a neighborhood of my village, Kazamaura) Obon Festival.  Obon in Japan is a very big national holiday, the basic premise being: this is the time when all the ancestors whom have passed return to their families.  They are shown the way home by all the lanterns hanging in the doorway of every house in Japan.  On the final day, when it is time for them to return to whence they came, families send them off with mini-picnics on boats that they send down rivers or out to sea.  It’s actually quite a lovely holiday, rooted deeply in Buddhist tradition.

In any case, the Obon festival in Hebiura included kareoke (which I unfortunately missed), a regional folk singer performing traditional songs, a lantern lighting ceremony presided over by a monk, followed by sending the lanterns out on the water, and Bon odori (Obon dancing).  Ellie and I, dressed in Japanese yukata (summer cotton kimono), were ushered out to dance with all the old ladies to the traditional Obon songs, circling around a taiko drummer.  As the token gaijin (foreigners) in almost any situation here, I got the impression that this was not only encouraged, but expected.  No worries, though, because you can imagine their surprise when we picked up the dances with such ease and grace – we are Bon odori naturals!  The dancing continued for the better part of an hour, and at the end, they anounced that everyone was to get a prize, but only two people got the very special first place prize of “Most Improved.”  I’d like to humbly share that Ellie and I won that prize.  We graciously accepted our immaculately wrapped gifts, eager to open the heavy packages.  What could they be?

They were two boxes of laundry detergent, apiece.  What was second place?  Tissues.  Oh Japan, how practical you are.

Getting ready

Getting ready


Lanterns at Sea

In between action shots

In between action shots


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