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28 October 2008 @ 12:20 am
Kagura!  
Though most of my entry won't be about this, I do have to mention--yes, Japanese schoolgirls really do tend to wear their uniforms everywhere they go (on schooldays at least), and yes, they hike their skirts up an extra 6-8 inches once they leave school, leading to the ridiculously short lengths you tend to see portrayed in shoujo anime. Anyway...

Saturday was the 秋祭り Aki Matsuri , or Fall Festival. It might have had another name, but if so, no one ever actually told us what it was. Anyway, Kaminaka-san from our eikaiwa had invited us over to his house for dinner[1], so we went over and got there a bit early. His house is huge, and a bit intimidating from the outside (all dark wood), but inside it was neat. An old-style Japanese house, with a small shrine in the entranceway. Kaminaka-san (hereafter referred to as "Michiya" because there were four Kaminakas there :p) had invited his wife's brother and his wife as well, who were all already there, so we began eating as soon as we got there. They had a huge amount of food--tomato and cucumber salad, fried chicken and shrimp, sashimi of various kinds, stewed vegetables in dashi, homemade nigiri, etc...and all this was the appetizers. They brought out sukiyaki for the actual meal.

When we started, I reached for a piece of sashimi using the other end of my chopsticks, as is proper etiquette, though as I did they stopped me and told me it was okay to use the eating end and that tonight was friendly. Table conversation was neat--I spoke in broken Japanese, Michiya's wife Itsuko and her brother spoke in broken English, her brother's wife (I didn't get either of their names ^^;;) spoke in Japanese, and Michiya spoke English to us and Japanese to his family. Despite the linguistic difficulties, we were able to talk about our family, about whether we like Japan, food, tell the story about how the first thing that softlykarou and I found that we had in common was liking unagi (the brother and his wife pronounced us "married by unagi" when they heard this ^^;;), where everyone came from, how when the brother and his neighbor (both from Osaka) talked in Kansai-ben, his wife had no clue what they were saying[2], the brother's wife's favorite maki (california roll, amusingly), etc. After the incredibly delicious dinner, we walked over to the nearby middle school for a kagura performance.

For those who haven't seen any kagura, it's a type of theater. The plot is minimal, though--it usually consists of a demon of some sort and the agents of Heaven sent to stop it. There are few plot twists, either. The only one we saw was one performance which had a princess seeking shelter from an evil kitsune, except it turned out the princess was the kitsune! Shock! The primary draw of kagura is the dancing and the incredibly intricate costumes. Michiya also took us back to see the performers area, where softlykarou and I got to try on the (ridiculously heavy) clothes and put on the masks, which performers hold onto their faces with their teeth.

It was really fun. ^_^ We missed a halloween party to go to the festival, but it was definitely worth going to. I just wonder what else happened for the festival, and if we missed anything in the town. There were ropes with white ribbons on them hung out all along the Old Road, but we didn't get that far.

[1]: This is apparently somewhat rare in Japan, according to what softlykarou told me. If so, that's even nicer.
[2]: Japanese has a ton of dialects, with far more variation than is present between American ones. Some Japanese-language movies need to include Japanese subtitles when characters are speaking in dialects that are particularly different from standard Japanese.
 
 
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Jeb Boytarmadillo_king on October 27th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
Married by unagi

What a wonderful story.

My wife and I also defined much of our early relationship through sushi. During law school, we had a tiered collection of sushi restaurants: affordable and casual (also usually close), date-night sushi, and special occaision sushi.

Thanks for these reports.