Samba and Kimonos

  

So, what have I been up to lately? Unfortunately, it has been too hot to go outside much unless you want to sweat, but still I have been to some great events. There was of course, my trip to visit Matt in Yokohama, photos of which can be seen here, but you’ll have to go there yourself if you want to taste the delicious, all-you-can-eat dim sum! Aside from Chinatown, there is some amazing, supra-modern architecture there, that I managed to capture in the sunset. The view from Landmark Tower observation deck was amazing- you get a sense of the whole city sprawled out like an animal, with roads for blood vessels and skyscrapers for organs. Seeing the multitudes going about their lives made me realise just how busy it all is and also how relative our experiences are. Millions of people are out there, living lives I know nothing about, just as they know nothing of mine. Coming at the end of August as it did, this marked the end of Summer for me and also an ultimate return to high-tech Japan.

Later on came the Brazilian festival in Yoyogi park, complete with some very beautiful samba dancers in the carnival style. I don’t know much about the singer as I’m not exactly familiar with the Brazilian pop scene, but whoever he is, he must be pretty big over there as the crowd went absolutely nuts! Along with that, there was a taiko drumming show that I was invited to by a friend (never say no to a free ticket, that’s my motto) that amazed me with the skill, despite some of the drummers still being high school students. What was good about this was the unusual, dynamic layouts, losing the ‘stiffness’ that performances can have and sharing the passion with you instead.

 

One lucky surprise was chancing upon a kabuki group at a nearby, new ‘kenko land’ (health center with hot baths and saunas). Along with very relaxing stone and salt-stone saunas, there is a small theatre that anyone can go to without a ticket, featuring this group, men dressed as ladies and ladies as men and the like, all in traditional garb and offering a very amusing show, with a great atmosphere. They were all probably in a dance ‘family’, inheriting and training for the role through generations, some of the dance moves needing to be learned from an early age to be perfectly realised. Luckily thanks to Yuko I could understand (most) of it. As a lover of traditional Japanese culture, this was a great find- not that I’m in the habit of watching grown men swooning around in women’s kimonos, you understand- just that I find the whole thing amusing! Unfortunately, there weren’t too many people watching and the lead actor at one point compared the large gap in the audience to the bald patch on his head!

I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not really, as it must be frustrating to go to all the effort of putting on a play without a full house to see it. Also, everyone in the audience apart from us seemed to be well into their 70’s, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it’s a great shame that many young Japanese people lack an interest in this side of their culture (something I recalled seeing plays in England, where they are more widely seen). Some members of the audience slipped 10,000 yen notes into their kimonos, a bit like a strip club but very much in reverse!

Another interesting time there was spent taking to a man in the baths, whose humble job is moving around recyclable goods in a van- but he sure knows how to enjoy his free time! He was telling me (assuming I understood his Japanese) how he gets a shovel and actually digs a natural onsen up in the foothills of Nagano, then sits in the hot water, gorgeous ‘koyo’ autumn leaves falling all around him and with a bottle of sake and snacks. For dinner, he’ll find wild shitake mushrooms in the forest, including one large variety that can usually only be found in expensive restaurants, which he fries over a fire with butter and other wild vegetables. It just goes to show that the best things in life are free and that there is much more going on in the world than you can possibly imagine from just staying in one place.

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