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2009 September 27

ET and I have had some interesting conversations about religion in the US and in Japan, and after I mentioned my aunt being Nichiren Buddhist, she invited me to come to a meeting at her Nichiren temple and meet the priest. The priest was fond of modern arts, she said, and was helping plan a festival involving a performance from Japanese dancers from a New York-based contemporary dance studio.

The meeting turned out to be a great thing, difficult as it was sitting on tatami for hours. I was introduced to the priest and to the founder of Akistudio, and after speaking to Miss Aki in English, I was approached by one of the Hamada residents helping to organize the festival. It turned out she had done a homestay in New Zealand and still spoke a good amount of English, so we had a long conversation, and she invited me to come help with the festival.

As a festival volunteer, I helped blow up some balloons, stuffed programs, and did a little ticket-taking. Mostly I wore my yellow event staff shirt and confused people by being foreign. And I was in the group picture on the back of the program, embarrassingly enough, since they insisted I be in the picture taken at the temple that night.


I did get to watch most of the show, which was a lot of fun. First a few local groups performed – a clowning/juggling group and a small chorus group from the University, a jazz dance group, and a hula group! Then Akistudio took the stage and performed their multi-part contemporary dance piece “The Other Side of the Door”. Just like the “calligraphy-like demonstration” I had seen the day before, I got the feeling that Akistudio’s work was a little too modern for local taste, but I really enjoyed their performance. The dancers were truly skillful, especially when performing pieces as toys; Miss Aki performed a solo piece as a robotic toy, and all four dancers did a beautiful job playing children’s toys in the act titled “Love Returns”. There were a few acts of story reading, which made it hard for the ALT I had invited to understand, but the first made me cry; it was the story of “何もない猫”, the cat who had nothing: no eyes, no ears, no tail, no body. The cat was invisible but there, and he was always lonely. Even his own mother couldn’t see him and simply forgot he was born. He tried his whole life to be recognized by someone, and eventually a fairy(?) told him to watch the moon for help. The last night of his life, the moon was clouded over, but in the pouring rain the villagers were able to make out the outline of the body of a cat.

I wasn’t able to see the last few acts of the dance, as I was told to go back out and help take surveys from people as they left the performance. Unfortunately for me, I was pulled in with the university volunteers who were lining up to take a bow on stage for their hard work. I was also then invited to the reception afterwards for the volunteers and the performers, which I accepted with hopes of finally talking to some of the college students.

Rain made me decide to walk instead of bike to the hotel where the reception was, so I was late and a little wet, but I did get to talk to a few people. The woman who invited me to volunteer in the first place found someone else in the room interested in learning English, so at least I was able to establish a small 英会話 (“eikaiwa”) group after all that trouble!

At the end of the night, the volunteers divided up the bouquets given to the performers, and my new eikaiwa friends insisted I take some. These next to the candles my friends and I had decorated at Konyamachi the night before made my kitchen very cheerful. 🙂


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