On Saturday I had to go to the school’s culture festival. This was a morning to mid afternoon affair, but as a result there is no school on Monday, which is a fantastic trade.
There were a number of different activities that one could do but you could only do one. There were a few that looked pretty good, but I opted for Sado, also know as Japanese Tea Ceremony. I had done something along these lines before, but it was more of a tourist thing as it was done in English, and it had us all sitting on benches and such. In this traditional setting you sit Seiza, which is where you sit with your legs under you. For the unpracticed individual, this is not comfortable by any means. Even the Japanese don’t sit this way too often so they too struggle. I went in there with one goal, to not be the first to give up on it. People kept saying that I could stop if I wanted, assuming that I was dying, but I just said I was fine. It wans’t too bad really, though blood circulation was an issue.
At first it is just a little annoying, but it gets worse and worse… As a result of no blood circulation, your feet go numb. I was never getting the prickles of having an extremity fall asleep, instead I had a foot that had absolutely zero sensation in it. I was punching it, or trying to inflict pain – nothing… People kept shifting their weight and fidgeting, but if you took pressure off you feet they would be very sad when you went down again. The most painful thing about sitting that way for me was the fact that the top of your foot lies prone with the floor. With your weight smashing it into the floor, it gets very sore. When I finally gave up, after 41 minutes, I was one of the last people to take a break. As the blood started flowing again, my legs just started dying. Pain, that kept getting worse, and it built and was nearly unbearable. Though, I was in a formal setting, so I had to keep a smile on my face…
Anyway, as for the ceremony itself, it was very interesting. It was a lot of fun to join my students and their parents for something like this. It’s a traditional practice where every action and movement has significance. Therefore, every piece of the courtesy and choreography are rehearsed and is the part that attracts such a following. There were a lot of pictures taken on other cameras, so I’ll see if I can hunt one down to put on here.
After this, it was a quick lunch, which everyone had brought. Then we resumed in the gym, where there was 3 hours of the student’s endeavors presented. Talent show, skits, brass band, choir, speeches, and a guest artist.
Talent show – There were only a few acts but they were mostly dance and lipsync acts. They were definitely fun to watch, since they had been practicing these in the hallways for a while. One of the groups danced to a song by a Korean band, Girls Generation to a song I know well. I included the video below. There was one student who did impressions of the teachers, and this was really funny. Also, this sort of thing would never happen outside the context of the festival; there is still a line drawn between authority figures and the peasants in Japan.
Skits – these were awful. they were meant to be educational and not funny at all. They were doing things like news reports and such. also, I had no idea what they were saying.
Brass band – one of the clubs after school. This was definitely middle school quality. Interesting that the conductor also played with them.
Choir – This involved a performance from each grade, all the teachers (They told me I could do it next year), and then an all school. It was interesting to hear this sort of thing in another language.
Speeches – These were the speeches that I had been helping with in preparation for the speech contest. My girl made it to the next round, doing very well.
Guest artist – some Japanese opera singer. She was really loud, but it was easy to see she had a lot of talent.
Overall, it was a lot of fun to participate with the community in something like this. They all know who I am, and as I become more integrated with the populace through festivals, cultural events, and just talking with the people I cross paths with, I am finding a greater sense of satisfaction with being here.