This last weekend I took the two-and-a-half hour ferry to Fukuoka, then the two hour train to Sasebo, to meet some other ALTs and see the famous Yosakoi festival. Yosakoi is a huge dance festival where hundreds of dance teams from around Kyushu perform traditional and modern dances with crazy costumes. Like any other Japanese festival, there’s lots of food (frozen bananas! Alas, I was full so I did not partake in them…), lots of people, and lots of fun, but unlike many other festivals, tons of foreigners. Sasebo has a large US naval base, so I saw white people everywhere. A bit strange coming from Iki, but it was actually kind-of nice.
What I really liked about Sasebo was the food. Granted, I could probably find something like this in any big city, but in Sasebo, all the foreign food was within walking distance of the train station. I ate Mexican (! YES!), Indian (! Naan! But they didn’t give me rice for my curry…), and they also have Thai and many others. Not knocking Iki–amazing food here–but it was nice to branch out from pizza, burgers, chinese, and sushi.
I’m excited to go to Nagasaki in two weeks for the same reason (we have our mid-year Conference soon), especially because this time I’m getting paid to go, being as it’s business related.
But anyway, onto the point of this post–Yosakoi!
According to Wikipedia (where I get all my information from…), Yosakoi began in 1954 and is a blending of traditional Japanese dance with modern music. It features fun costumes and large teams–teams made up of men, women, and children often times. One of the main features of yosakoi are the “naruko,” wooden clappers originally used to scare birds away from rice fields. (I bought a set of them, painted with glittery red and pink, for Christine who just had a birthday!) The original festival is held in Kochi (on Shikoku island), but the largest one in Kyushu is the one I went to in Sasebo.
We started off the day well, in Starbucks! I have love affairs with Starbucks in foreign countries–a bit of home that I can’t get elsewhere. It’s too bad that Chai isn’t as popular in Japan as it is in America: it means I can’t get it at about half of the Starbucks I go to, which is le sad. But they have donuts and scones and delicious sandwiches, which is very nice. And I can handle hot cocoa or apple cider instead of Chai. 🙂
The next few are from the group that I liked the best. Very active and traditional, and they really looked like they were enjoying themselves. Plus their make-up was freaking awesome. The group that went after them was fun–they danced to the Mission Impossible theme–but I thought they looked a bit like leprechauns and could not take them seriously at all.
Had several problems with my camera: the lens not recognizing or somesuch (F U Error 99!) and the focus/diopter going crazy, but I got a few good ones, which made me le happy.
Note the traditional colors of their naruko, black red, yellow, and green (?).
For a bit of perspective, I’ve also included a few videos (wow! I’m suddenly getting way advanced here… and by that I mean I finally figured out how to use youtube). These were both taken inside of a “covered mall.” Lots of stores and people around, and also where the Starbucks was! We were actually walking through there to get to the Starbucks and ran into the festival, which was a lucky coincidence.
The clips are pretty short (:45 and ~:15), so enjoy!
After a few hours and wandering around one of the larger pavilions where the festival was occuring, we decided to make it a day. The boys aren’t a big fan of dancing, which is cool, I think we had a good time hanging out, but that means I didn’t get to see as much of a variety as I would like. However, I enjoy hanging out with the other ALTs (and a single JTE–Hi Megumi!), and we ate lots of good food and did a lot of hemming and hawwing about what to do for the rest of the day, which I find mildly entertaining.
Then I got to dance all night! I’ll have to admit, my favorite form of going out is to a small, quiet bar where I can chat with my friends, play some connect four, and relax. But it was so different from Iki to go to a live bar–the band that played was absolutely fantastic! A tribute for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, they were so talented at the guitar I nearly wept. And by that I mean I sent “Are you friggin’ serious?!” looks to Guy, Nathan, and Goto-Joe. Which they returned with, “Holy crap” looks.
I haven’t heard live music in awhile, so though we were surrounded by slightly-obnoxious Navy men (who kept asking Nathan if he was French–HILARIOUS), I danced and laughed and had a great time. Then we went to an actual club and I danced some more. Got called an “Onee-san” (older sister) by one of the singers being as I was the only girl on the floor who could move my hips. Then I went to sleep, because I was tired!
Overall, though travel time was long and sleep was sparse, a great time.
Then of course I got back to be hit with one of my typical AWFUL colds. Was nearly knocked on my ass on Monday, suffered as well as I could through Christine’s birthday dinner (I felt so bad, both in terms of sickness and sadness that I couldn’t participate as much in the well wishes), and woke up this morning too stuffed up and ouch-y to go to work. But it was a good day to get sick, I guess: didn’t have any classes as the students are taking tests. Plus, next weekend is a three day weekend, so I can rest some more.
Happy Halloween everyone! I hope life is going well! Done any dancing lately?