Monday, August 29, 2005


I went to an outdoor live concert held in a small village outside Kochi city last night. This kind of event is becoming popular throughout Japan… I mean, having big music events for youth in rural/remote areas where otherwise very little people would visit. Perhaps such venues are good for outdoor live concerts because not many residents would complain about the noise (…because there are not many residents there.) No, I'm not making fun of them. I think it's a good idea and I welcome such events.

This is the venue of the live concert last night. There were some food/drink booths around and it was kind of funny seeing people eating some traditional food like somen and seared bonito watching things like hip-hop dance, BMX performance and DJ mixing.

I heard that many different artists performed there since afternoon, but I was able to see the stage after 19:00 or so. I didn’t know much about the young performers I saw – a hip-hop group, I imagine -- but I loved watching their dance so much. A DJ called kentaro also performed and he was said to be a real famous kid. They said he was a former champ of World DJ mixing championship (or something?) Even someone like me who doesn’t know anything about DJ mixing technique thought he was awesome. Boy, it was so nice of him to come.

I missed the last train from the village, so I took a taxi to a bigger train station to catch the last express train. The taxi driver was a big fan of old-time rock groups and said he goes to the Ventures’ concert every time they come to Kochi. (Yes, the Ventures come to Kochi almost every year to perform, believe it or not.) I really love it when seemingly serious elder folks talk enthusiastically about their favorite bands with stars in their eyes like they are back in their teenage days again.

We all love music, don't we?
posted by obachan, 8/29/2005 11:04:00 AM | link | 4 comments |

Friday, August 26, 2005


I was going to visit my parents’ house this weekend, but looks like I need to postpone the visit. Well, maybe it’s a good chance to stay in my apartment and re-start some things that I haven’t been doing since the beginning of the summer. Gee, now I think about it, I haven’t played the keyboard for a L O N G time…!! :O

One quick damn question about English grammar:
Talking about subject-verb agreement, is “a pair of” considered singular or plural? Do you say “A pair of shoes IS lost” or “A pair of shoes ARE lost?” A British guy and I got caught up in this question yesterday, and since we didn't have an access to the internet when we were talking about that, we had to sink in the deep mud for quite a while. (Of course I'm kidding.) :P

I always thought it was singular, but going through some grammar sites and forums on the net later, I found that it is treated as plural in certain situations. According to American Heritage Online, “A plural verb is used when the members are considered as individuals.” Is that so in British English, too?

I guess I simplified the example a little too much. The actual sentence we were wondering about was more like this one:

A pair of zori, Japanese traditional sandals, is/are lost.

I thought that the inserted part wouldn’t make a difference and the verb would be singular because the subject of the sentence was still “a pair.”

I really want to know how it is in British English grammar, though. They seem to have a bit different idea about singular/plural issue, because most of British people I knew said "a number of people" is singular because there is "a" in front of "number of people."
posted by obachan, 8/26/2005 10:33:00 AM | link | 5 comments |

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Day 2 (Aug. 11th) - Part 2 -

It was late in the evening and already getting dark when we danced on Otesuji street again on the second day. This time the dance was not televised. Some team members said that they loved dancing at night better, because the bright lights along the street “turn them on,” and I agreed. The extraordinary atmosphere was intensified as the familiar sights of the town melted in the dark.

Dancers #13

Before we started dancing, the leader on the leading truck joked, “All the performances before this were just practices. THIS is the real show time! Put your best smile on your face!” I wasn’t hoping for getting a medal there, because I thought the flower medal, the best prize, was too much to ask. Instead, I really wanted to explore “my style” to be prepared for our performance at the last venue, which was going to be much shorter than the one at Otesuji. I wanted to finish the festival with my best dance.

I think all dancers know that everyone’s dance is unique and different even when dancing the same choreography. I’m no professional and I haven’t been in a dance class or anything before, but just participating in this festival for two days, I started feeling the desire to dance “my dance.” I didn’t want to look just like anyone. I wanted to move in the way that only I could do, and impress the audience in the way that no one else could do. After our performance started there, I noticed that other team members were feeling the same way.

When I came close to the judges, still I was experimenting two different ways of clapping the naruko clappers to see which had less risk of dropping them. Then I noticed that one judge pointed at me. He quickly told his assistant to give me one of the things she held in her arms --- a flower medal!

Dancers #14

Honestly, I felt mixed feelings all at once. I felt relieved, delighted, proud, guilty and pressured. The last one, the pressure, came from the thought that I should be dancing like a medal winner so that the members and the audience wouldn’t think “Why could she get the medal with THAT dance?!” When the performance there was finally over, several team mates congratulated me and I felt happy, but with a little bit of guilty feeling still remaining inside.

Finally we came to the last venue, a small shopping street that I usually go through on my way to the office I work at in the daytime. Knowing that was going to be our last performance, the whole team was ready to go nuts.

The leader’s voice was already cracking from shouting all the time for two days. The members around me were obviously trying to put all their energy into every move and step they made. Being in the line closest to the audience, I was able to see some of them smiling back to me when I made a big, quick move and smiled at them. A few elder women fanned me with their uchiwa fans trying to help me fight the heat, saying “Keep it up! Great job!” Of course I will! This is my very last dance this year!!

And there came the unforgettable moment.

Dancers #15

I wasn’t thinking about moves or steps any longer; my body was just dancing to the music. In my sight, there were just the leading truck and the team mates in the bright light. There was no thinking about the past or the future…just the present. There was no fear, no embarrassment, no hesitation… there was just me, dancing to the music. That was all. My legs and arms were almost falling apart, but still I wanted to show more and more passion before I get to the goal--- before the whole thing came to an end.

The team mates who already reached the goal gathered around the truck, singing and shouting with the members who were still dancing. It fueled the passion of the dancers whose bodies were already pretty much worn out. You really should have seen their faces. That was something you don't see often in your everyday-life. That was something they all had deep inside, but only a crazy moment like that could bring out of them.

And I knew that my face, too, looked just like theirs.

Photos by Mr. K. Kawasaki.
*Photos are not quite related to the story.

It’s been a few days since the end of the festival. Now team members are exchanging emails and photos with countless “thank-yous.”

My team mates and me with a distinctive smile (Photo by Donchan)

One of the team mates, Donchan, emailed me this photo today and said it was OK to post it to my blog. :D Yes, she sent me a normal photo, and I hid my face using a photo retouch software to stay mysterious to the readers. Hahaha...

I’m sure most of us dance nuts will come back again next summer, because we got addicted to that extraordinary moment.
And we are crazy enough to indulge in the addiction ;)
posted by obachan, 8/16/2005 10:33:00 AM | link | 11 comments |


Day 2 (Aug. 11th) – Part I --

It is my philosophy that you have to see the parade, not the stage dance, to fully appreciate the essence of Yosakoi festival. From the audience’s point of view, the dancers' moves look more powerful and dynamic when they are “coming towards you,” I think. Also the audience has the advantage of seeing the dancers from all directions -- front, side and back – as they pass by. For the dancers, on the other hand, parade is a great setting for “interactions with the audience.” In the parade, dancers come very close to the audience, and there's always very responsive people among the bystanders. If the dancers appeal to them with big, passionate moves, they love it and instantly show it by cheering up the dancers, which make the dancers feel more and more excited.

Dancers #9

I also believe that summer is the best season for this festival. For me this is the opportunity to experience something extraordinary -- something crazy and ecstatic -- in the ordinary settings I see every day. In my opinion, the heat, the sweat and real loud music are essential for that craze to be intensified to the max.

Dancers # 10

When I saw the dance parade for the first time as an audience, I was surprised that the sweat and the costume with Japanese traditional design made such an unexpected, beautiful combination. I love the beauty of Japanese traditional clothes, kimono, but all the traditional customs and performing arts I associate with kimono were calm, elegant and sensitive ones -- nothing to do with a flood of sweat. Imagine a person doing tea ceremony being soaked wet by the sweat. It’s nothing but pitiful and certainly not a great picture, don't you think? But in the Yosakoi dance, I saw the bright red lipstick, the Japanese traditional patterns on the costume, the dancers’ smile and beads of sweat on their faces, arms and shoulders… and they all looked so beautiful and riveting altogether that I instantly fell in love.

Dancers #11

On the second day of the festival, I was more used to the dance, and I kept wondering if anyone in the audience was feeling the same way as I did and falling in love with this crazy event like I did a few years back. We danced at a few new venues that day. As I got more comfortable with dancing, I noticed a change in myself. To my surprise, I was getting more and more greedy, wanting a prize.

In Yosakoi festival, a judges’ booth is set up at every venue and a few judges stay there the whole day (maybe taking turns?) Their job is to find good dancers and reward them with medals. Of course, the judges are not professional dancers or anything. They are just some volunteers(?) from the neighborhood, and the criteria for the prize is pretty subjective and largely non-technical, like “Oh he looks very energetic” or “Mmm, her smile is fantastic!” or “Boy, that grandma is doing a great job for her age,” etc. So actually, getting a medal does not necessarily mean that you are a good dancer, and not getting any does not mean you are a bad one.

Dancers #12

Participants including myself knew that very well…but… you know, when you keep witnessing others getting rewarded one after another and you get none, you start feeling down. That happened to me, too. On the first day, I never ever thought about the medals. On the second day, in the beginning, I was still more worried about some team members from other prefectures having to go back empty handed without medals. Honestly I was really happy when such members got medals and jumped around with joy.

But… then what about me? Was my dance THAT dull that deserved no medal at all ???

Photos by Mr. K. Kawasaki.
* Photos are not quite related to the storyt.
posted by obachan, 8/16/2005 09:15:00 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, August 15, 2005


Day 1 (Aug. 10th) -- Part II --

Otesuji street is the main dance venue of Yosakoi festival. It’s a four-lane street divided by the zelkova trees in the safety zone(?) in the center. There the Yosakoi dance parade is televised live by a local TV station, and flower medals -- the highest prize for individual dancers -- are given to outstanding performers.

This venue is my all-time favorite, but it has nothing to do with the TV appearance or the medals. I just love to watch the vibrant colors of the costumes and flags under the fresh green of the zelkova trees. Especially, the movements of the huge flags called furafu waved under the trees are just so magnificent! The furafu flags flap and swing as if they are alive, and never hit the branches or dancers or the audience. That’s the art of flag-waving which only experienced guys can do, and I feel thrilled everytime I see it.

Dancers #5

But when standing in line waiting for our turn that day, the attractiveness of the venue did not matter to me at all. The performance there was going to be longer than the previous ones, and I was worried about getting sick in the middle of the dance in front of the TV camera.

When the team right next to us started moving forward to the start line, we clapped our naruko clappers to cheer them up. When our turn came, another team did the same to us, shouting things like “Good luck!” “Give it your best shot!” I really love this kind of interaction at this festival.

Dancers #6

Fortunately I didn’t do anything terrible there during the dance parade, but didn’t do anything fantastic, either. The dance routine seemed to last endlessly to me, and the goal looked so far. I knew I didn’t have a happy expression on my face, and prayed that the TV camera wouldn’t come close to me. Then I realized that I forgot to set the timer recording to videotape our dance!!! Ahhhhh!!!

Dancers #7

After the performance on Otesuji street, we did a stage dance in the central park. I never really liked the stage dance so mcuh, because it looks more like a dance contest rather than a festival. Then we faced a real big challenge --- the longest arcade, Obiyamachi arcade. It was long enough to make me lose myself and I think I dropped one of my clappers while dancing there. There were a couple of friends of mine in the audience and they saw me dancing with only one clapper in hand.

Dancers #8

It was indeed the worst part of the two-day performance, but after surviving the parade at the longest arcade, things started getting much better. I didn’t get out of breath like I did in the first couple of performances. Little by little, I started paying attention to the audience. When we finished our performance at our last venue of the day, I was happy that I still had one more day to dance.
OK, I can do much better tomorrow!

Photos by Mr. K. Kawasaki.
* Photos are not quite related to the story.

posted by obachan, 8/15/2005 11:12:00 PM | link | 0 comments |


Day 1 (Aug. 10th) -- Part I --

I woke up and thanked God (and minor tranquilizer) for giving me some sleep the previous night. It was the day of a big challenge and lack of sleep was the last thing I wanted.

Dancers #1

Our team was supposed to meet at 11:00 a.m., but I had breakfast in a great hurry because I had to finish hemming up the pants of my dance costume. Luckily, fixing the costume didn’t take too long, but putting it on took some time --- I had a bit hard time dealing with the bandanna. Usually women wear heavy makeup and decorate hair with things like flowers, ornaments or chopsticks. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to try anything fancy.

As I sneaked out of the apartment, I prayed that no one would see me because the costume looked too “different” in the everyday-life environment. But when I was unlocking my bike, there came one of my neighbors. She found me and said “OMG! You’re dancing! Hey, I’m gonna come and see you dance tomorrow!” The whole neighborhood must have heard it…. After thanking her with a grin on my face, I rushed to our meeting place on my bike. The long sleeves of my costume looked like two little parachutes and everyone on the street was watching me. Boy, it was sooo embarrassing…!!

Dancers #2

We met at a small shopping arcade near Harimayabashi. I signed in there, received my lunch and ate it with team mates in a nearby park. My team consisted of participants from all over Japan, and most of them were new to the team, so it was easier for a newcomer like me to make friends. When waiting for our first dance performance, experienced members looked pretty comfortable, but new dancers looked a little nervous. To be honest, I wasn’t sure of several dance moves at that point, but I was going to take it easy and follow whatever the person in front of me would do ;P

Usually in Yosakoi dance parade, dancers line up in 3 to 4 lines and parade, dancing all the way through. In front of each team goes a leading truck with audio equipments and team leader(s) on. Dancers follow the leading truck that moves very slowly playing the dance music, and the leader(s) talk, sing and shout with big gestures to lift the team spirit. When our turn came, the leader introduced the team to the audience, and the music started.

Dancers #3

The first dance was just so-so. Our team members practiced at home individually but didn’t have a chance to get together and practice parading as a team, so keeping a formation was rather hard in the beginning. Besides, in the small shopping arcade, the audience stood too close to us as we danced and I was always worried about hitting the audience with my naruko clappers.

But obviously, the biggest problem was nothing else but my stamina. In the middle of the dance, I noticed that the workout at the castle or the jogging by the river didn’t really prepare me for this festival. I felt dizzy a few times after making quick turns. Smiling at the audience was out of question. I was just so happy when we got to the end of the arcade. Gee, how many more times do I have to do this?! It was a big mistake that I decided to dance this year…I’m too old for this!! I couldn’t catch my breath even after gulping down a few cups of iced tea at the water booth.

Dancers #4

When we were at the prefectural office, a real heavy squall started all of a sudden. That’s the worst thing that can happen to the audio equipments and PA system on the leading truck, but it does happen every year. The team staff hurried to the truck to cover the electric equipment with big tarps and we dancers broke into small groups to shelter the rain. I sympathized with the teams that were dancing in the heavy rain. I’ve done it before and I knew how heavy the costume got when soaked wet by the squall. But of course, no team stopped dancing. That’s always the way it is with this festival--- no rain can stop the passion of the dance nuts.

After 10 or 15 minutes, the rain stopped. It definitely got cooler than before and we were so happy about it. We danced right in front of the prefectural office two rounds and headed for the next venue, Otesuji street. Yes, it was time for a TV appearance.

Photos by Mr. K. Kawasaki.
* Photos are not quite related to the story.
posted by obachan, 8/15/2005 10:47:00 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, August 13, 2005


The crazy dance festival is finally over!! (Here is my blog entry from last year with some explanations of what the festival is about.) And dear readers, I’m proud to tell you that I survived, and even won a prize!! :D

These are the wooden clappers I used for the dance and a “flower medal” I won this year. I’ll explain more about the prize later.

I danced on the 10th and 11th, and watched the performance of other teams all afternoon yesterday (and worked at the izakaya last night). Right now I’m suffering from real nasty burnout syndrome, accompanied with a terrible muscle ache all over. This happens every year. To deal with the muscle ache, I have no other choice but a massage and some plasters. For the burnout… well, I usually try to deal with it by indulging in the memories of the festival, looking at the photos and talking/writing about the big event. The biggest mistake this year was that I didn’t bring my digital camera when I participated in the festival.

Before the festival, I thought that I couldn’t be a blogger and a dancer at the same time. As I wrote in my previous entry, dancers had to keep moving from one dance venue to another all day. The staff told us beforehand that we could leave just a few personal belongings in the leading truck, but we might not be able to pick them up whenever we want. And they asked us to keep them to the minimum. I didn’t feel comfortable about bringing THAT big, heavy, old-fashioned digital camera, and I also didn’t think we could have access to our personal belongings so often because when we were not dancing, the leading truck was not always with us. So on the day before the festival, I left my camera to a friend of mine and asked him to take pics of the dance parade when he could. Yes, the photos of the dancers in my Yosakoi festival entries this year were taken by my friend, not me.

Anyway, he couldn’t find our team, and I had no camera with me, so there was no way I could take pics of my team mates. Good thing is that every year many Yosakoi lovers post numerous photos of the festival on the net, and thank goodness someone already did so. (So quick! Thanks a mil !)
Check this site.

Our dance venues include places like parking lots, shopping arcades and main streets with traffic control. The venues in the pics on the page linked above are a parking lot of a shopping mall (EAON Kochi) and another shopping street in the city. Do click on the numbers on top and see other pages, too, especially PART-2 Gallery-2. Two shots of our team are included in the Gallery-2 (2nd from the top on the right, 3rd from the top on the left). Yes, the ones in which the dancers have small green aprons on. Too bad I’m not included in either of them, but soon our team members will post more of the better pics of our team and I’ll link to them as soon as I find them.
Stay tuned ;)
posted by obachan, 8/13/2005 11:00:00 PM | link | 5 comments |

Sunday, August 07, 2005


The preparation for the festival has been going on here and there in the city. My workplace – the izakaya pub – is on the Otesuji street which is going to be the main dance venue at the festival. There the biggest dance parade will take place on the 10th and 11th this month. On my way to work, I see the changes there every day and feel more and more excited about the festival.

They have been setting up the bleacher seats for the audience, and lights by the trees for the night-time parade. Near the izakaya I work at, colorful lanterns (with sponsors’ names on) are hung along the street.

Dancers are practicing at many places in the city, almost every day since beginning of August. On my way to work, I can see at least 3 teams practicing in a parking lot, a small park and elementary school gym. They are getting better day by day.

I made a small drawstring bag the other day. At the festival, we (dancers) have to keep moving from one venue to another all day, so need to bring along some valuables such as money to buy sports drinks, room key, cell phone, etc. I’ve always wanted a small, Japanese-style drawstring bag to keep my valuables in, and finally I made one myself. It is handsewn, because I don’t have a sewing machine.

So if you would have a chance to come and see our Yosakoi festival this summer, and happen to see a middle-aged woman with this bag, that would be me ;)
posted by obachan, 8/07/2005 12:12:00 PM | link | 2 comments |

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Never Again.
posted by obachan, 8/06/2005 08:15:00 AM | link | 4 comments |

Monday, August 01, 2005


It’s finally August! One more week (almost) to the festival.

This morning I prepared a list of things I should do this week to get ready for the festival.

* Get up before 8:30am every morning.
* Have at least 5 hours sleep every day. Use antihistamine if necessary. Do not use alcohol to sleep.
* Jog for at least 15 minutes and practice the dance for at least 15 minutes every day.
* Do icing after practice.
* Drink amino acid sports drink after jogging/dancing.
* Do not skip any meal.

OK, you can laugh at me, but I’m dead serious. I’m going to dance in the daytime under the direct sunlight when the temperature is above 35 degrees celcius. On the asphalted street it’d be close to 40 C. Maybe we would dance at 5 to 7 venues a day, for apx.15 – 30 minutes each. But that’s not all… we’d mostly have to stay in the sunlight when waiting to dance. And we do it for 2 days in a row.

Seriously, it’s not a piece of cake. Before I worry about the quality of my dance, I have to survive. So, I need to take good care of myself this week. At my age, guts alone is not enough when going for a challenge.
posted by obachan, 8/01/2005 11:06:00 PM | link | 2 comments |