I strongly suspect the title of this blog entry will serve nicely as my epitaph, but it’s intended to describe how much of “today”, Sunday, June 14th, went. Still, do make a note of it, so that when it’s time to scatter my ashes you’ll know what to have engraved on the urn you dispense them from. Assuming any of you are still around. And that there are ashes. And that I haven’t become a disembodied entity uploaded into the cloud, which would be super awesome but would probably not solve any my connection issues. (“Error 404 – Relationships Not Found.”)
Before I launch into Sunday, I should mention that, in real time, today is Wednesday, June 24th, and I just changed Airbnb’s to a place technically in Otaru but right on the edge, practically in Sapporo and only 25 minutes by train from downtown. It’s a block from the ocean but there will be no swimming; I’ll include pictures showing why in a later post (shudder). It’s very rustic, but the WiFi is 43Mbps up, 4.5Mbps down, and a 75ms ping rate: this may be the best internet I’ve had since I left the US. (Will it be stable? We’ll see.) Leaving Kenta’s place was the first time I’ve been sad about leaving anywhere since this all started: I liked Kenta, I liked the other Airbnb people, I liked the location. Maybe I’ll like it here, too; we’ll see. Anyway, more on that in due course, I just wanted to catch you guys up on my current status, before I worked to catch me up on the blog.
Sunday was the last day of the Yosakoi Soran Festival; I might have attended some things on Saturday, but I had baseball to go to. And I think Sunday was the big day for it anyway, because there were two parades running east to west along both sides of Odori Park, that 10 block stretch of parkland that runs west from the TV Tower. When I showed up around 10:30ish (walking there from home), it was already underway, and seemed to consist entirely of one group after another of: truck with music speakers and announcers standing on top, followed by coordinated semi-traditional dance groups of roughly 20 to 100 people, occasional drummers and other musicians, and wavers of seriously giant flags. Every block, each group would do its routine at the start of the block and perform moving forwards; completing, they’d walk forward to the next block and do it again. (Pics below.) They were doing it the night before, also. Must have been exhausting.
Yosakoi has been a thing in Japan since the mid-50’s, and Wikipedia has bunch of details on just how popular it is. The performances were great, but I had a bit of a hard time finding a place to watch and take pictures. The streets were pretty well lined with people, and while there were bleachers set up along the route they seemed to be restricted; I’m guessing I could have bought tickets somewhere, had I known. Maybe next time. Usually, where I’d end up having to stand was not at a great place for picture taking, with the main action of the routine being a bit too far away. Fortunately, the thing went on pretty much all day, and I was standing for hours, reluctant to leave and miss watching more of a Thing Going On, so I had lots of chances to get decent shots. When I’d stood as long as I could stand, I’d wander away, walk through the park, maybe buy something yummy to eat, and then be pulled back to another location to watch more. There was a central stage in the park where some of these took place, but that had the restricted seating. And then, in the afternoon, walking away for the last time, I stumbled across what I think were judging areas on side streets, closed off blocks where the groups would line up at the start while the previous group performed, then do their bit and exit at the other end of the block. This turned out to be much better for finding a good watching position.
I took a ton of photos, then realized that photos weren’t really capturing the essence of active dancing and chanting very well and started taking videos, all the while realizing that I’d probably find better ones online afterwards. So, in that spirit, I present Google Images: Yosakoi Soran Festival 2015. But, in fairness, I did get a few photos of my own that I liked:
As with the Google Images link, while I took a bunch of videos, I was thinking I’d end up linking to better videos of the festival already online. And when I got home after the festival, Kenta was already watching a great news feed showing better footage than I’d seen, which really rubbed the irony in: like sports events, you often see more by staying home and watching it on TV. So, I figured I’d find great stuff on YouTube and would be better off just using that instead of my probably dubious iPhone footage. The problem was, after browsing for quite a while, a week later, I couldn’t find many that I was wild about: many were low resolution, or terrible angles, and a few were dull performances. I’ve included a few links to some that I thought were good (some from Saturday night), but here are 3 of my own that I liked:
And some others on YouTube, the first couple from the central stage in the park:
The next one has another Westerner in the mix; you’ll see him in the first few seconds of the video. (I thought for a moment that it might be the same guy from my picture above, but I think that guy’s nose is larger, and their ears are different shapes. I don’t know, after a few months in Asia, Westerners all look alike to me.)
And, for the more adventurous, here’s one featuring an actual, traditional costume that is prominently used in certain ritual festivals and adapted to this performance.
This group was one featured in the TV show I saw when I got home, playing on the main stage. Strangely, none of the groups with older performers were working this costume.
So, that was Sunday.
By the way, I forgot to mention that the day before, after getting home from the baseball game, I had grabbed 7-11 dinner and sat down in the living room with Kenta to watch whatever he was watching. Pretty much whenever he’s home, the TV is on (a pretty common thing for people living alone), and it’s often some of the freaky odd Japanese television that you can find all over YouTube. But sometimes it’s anime (notably, One Piece and Dragonball Z), and about as often it’s the super cheap American cable sitcoms that no one I know would be caught dead watching but are probably a great way to practice your English. Simple dialog, contextually obvious meanings, short sentences…. I had an Indian coworker tell me once that when she came to the states as a teenager, she was advised to watch Saturday morning kids cartoons to practice her English, and I’d imagine these sitcoms could fill the same role.
But he was also a big fan of a Japanese show that, I’m guessing, explored more complex fare and in this case was featuring a TED talk that I’ve tracked down and linked to here. It’s entitled, “The world’s most boring television … and why it’s hilariously addictive”. It’s really pretty cool, and like most TED talks, it’s both fascinating and funny, so I can heartily recommend it:
There’s a lot of comradeship in sharing television shows that you all enjoy, whether it’s a TED talk, or a Big Bang Theory episode, or Bug Bunny, and I felt like we’d just had quality bonding time, despite saying almost nothing to each other. Or perhaps, given the language barrier, because of that.
I thought I’d get a little bit of work in on the blog that night, but just as I started, I was explaining why my nights had been so short, and looked up the actual sunrise time: 3:54am! Shocked, I signed off, went immediately to bed at just after 8:30, woke up early again, but actually got a bit of sleep for a change.
Monday was uneventful. After all the standing and walking at the parade, I was ready to take it easy for a day, read Twitter, work on the blog, etc. I had 7-11 food, and salads that I made with veggies I’d found in a store on the Shopping Arcade. They had a small selection, and the prices were aggregious — like $2/tomato — but I’d gotten enough to make salads for 4 days and I was glad to get the fresh veggies. It’s weird that veggies are so expensive, when Hokkaido is a breadbasket for the country. Still, all of Japan is basically volcanic mountains sticking up out of the water, so arable land is at a premium. As I’m mentioning land space, I might as well mention some numbers that I was impressed by: Japan has half the US population living in a country the size of California, in which only 20% of the land is level enough to really live on. So, half the US in 20% of California. No wonder Tokyo is packed, and even Sapporo, on the “frontier”, builds upwards.
Well, that’s probably a good place to end this; a bit shorter than usual, but I can’t imagine anyone objecting to that. And the videos would take more time to watch, if you watched them. Your call.
BTW, I realize that I’ve had several posts without any mention of reading materials. I’ve been behind on my reading, what with the traveling and sightseeing and blogging (and ESO and Twitter), but I promise to start reading again soon, and then sharing. In a couple of posts, I should be able to tell you about a really excellent book, the reading of which involved wild animals and bloodshed. But the view was lovely.
Bye for now. 😀