Dancing for life

The end of May features Hita’s largest festival. It was my second time so I was able to understand it a little better. Last year I had only been in Japan for less than a month and I was still reeling from all the newness.

Kankousai, to say the least, is quite amazing! There are parades, music, games, and food stalls line the streets. It is advertised as the Mikuma river sightseeing festival. But I’ve learned that it was originally to celebrate the opening of the river for fishing season. Whatever it once was has significantly adapted with the changing capitalist times.

IMG_3896I’m torn. The centerpiece of the festival is the fireworks that happen on Saturday and Sunday night. From my experience, they are the most spectacular displays I’ve ever seen. Each night features ninety minutes of incredible display. About twenty or so companies sponsor five minutes or so of fireworks and their names are ignited for all to see during the show. It’s brilliant. Advertise and show off at the same time!

But the parade was the true centerpiece of the festival for me. As I watched the parade Sunday afternoon, I was struck with what I can only call giddiness. There were ladies performing a traditional dance and I was filled with happiness. I don’t know where it came from. Then there was more. Each group that passed featured more dancing and music. It looked like the participants were having a blast even though it was so hot, and it was infectious.

Troop_Kankousai_12It got me thinking.

From beginning to end I saw hundreds of people dancing. I saw little kids dancing. I saw teenagers dancing, adults, seniors, octogenarians. All shapes and sizes and all styles of dance. There were traditional dances and play acting and hip hop. And all of them appeared to be having fun.

There doesn’t appear to be a social stigma against dancing in Japan. If there is, I haven’t seen it. But there is definitely no stigma against what kind of person can do what kind of dance.

I find it refreshing.

IMG_3928Back home, doing something you’re not supposed to results in coldness from all sides. I play traditional folk music and I don’t fit the stereotype. I would be asked why by all sorts of people. Over time I developed a hard shell but sometimes the pressure intensified. It made me feel unwanted and shunned. It’s difficult to keep going. I’d be so fearful of the reaction that I began to dread gigs. I tried to stay optimistic but I don’t know if I met the challenge. I thought that if I just forged ahead it would get better and I would be accepted.

I’ve done a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to. I wasn’t supposed to finish college and I certainly wasn’t supposed to travel abroad. It’s a good thing I’m stubborn.

Experiencing that it is okay to try something new and different without being crucified is wonderful. I think it is an important lesson that we should all take to heart. Share your culture and experiences, try something new, and meet new people.

What are some things you weren’t supposed to do?


About Matthew J. Durocher

Matthew Durocher is a graduate of Michigan Tech University. He acquired his BA in English along with a minor in Music Composition and a certificate in Writing in Spring 2012. His style is one of passion and musicality. One foot is firmly rooted in tradition while the other slides dangerously close to the clouds.
This entry was posted in Culture Shock, Japan, Narrative, Reflection and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Dancing for life

  1. Jessica says:

    Been wanting to respond to this for three days now. Life’s been busy and by the time I’ve had a chance I’ve always been too tired! So forgive the delay.

    Loved this post. I love the way observing different cultures can make us introspective about our own and own own lives. I’m sorry to hear you felt put down for your folk music… And if you think dancing is put down where you came from, you should hear about the little tiny culture *I* came from. Dancing was a strict no-no. (I still suck at it.) But I’m glad you’ve done the things you weren’t supposed to. Living abroad in Asia changed my life for forever, and now I can’t wait to go back. I wish more people would open themselves up to new situations and experiencing different cultures. The world would be a better place…

    I would *love* to see Kankousai!!!

    • I will repeat your apology. Life and work took over and blogging had to go on a small holiday. So please forgive my delay in responding!

      Thanks for your kind words and observations. My “home” culture is also very anti-dance, considering it to be the work of the devil. It’s difficult playing dance music when nobody dances because they consider it evil. But sometimes people did dance and that made all the difference. I agree that living abroad has had a tremendous impact on me. So much so that I am having a difficult time determining where then changes are taking place. But I think the greatest asset I’ve realized is that the world is a big place and there are millions of interesting people out there and the more we interact the better the world will be. Great words, Jessica!

      As far as Kankousai, if you ever have the opportunity you should take it! Thanks and have a great day!

      • Jessica says:

        The funniest thing? Much of what “changed” about me I didn’t realize until I came home. It’s why I’m now itching to go abroad again… I will take the opportunity if I ever get the chance to see Kankousai! 🙂

  2. Very nice post! I have attended a few of the Sakura Festivals in San Francisco’s Japan Town, seeing the parade, taiko drummers, etc. I don’t remember fireworks, which must add a whole new dimension to the celebration. With regard to your question, I think people tend to question others who pursue interests or have talents different from their own, partially due to curiosity, and partly, perhaps, from a twinge of envy. We are never going to be accepted by everyone, so maybe it’s enough to be satisfied with accepting ourselves.

    • Are there many Cherry trees in San Francisco? Kankousai is a special festival for Hita city which brings in tons of tourists from across Japan.

      Perhaps it is our human nature to question the different, like you say, because of curiosity and envy. But it seems like so many people actively try to undermine unusual passion. At any rate, we must accept ourselves. Thanks a bunch! I will carry your words with me today. Have a great day!

      • Yes, there are cherry trees lining the streets of Japan Town, and they do bloom nicely in the spring, making the air fragrant. There are other festivals and celebrations throughout the year, though Kankousai sounds like “the mother of all Japanese festivals!” There’s a large Japanese American community here, with noted artists like Ruth Asawa (visual artist/sculptor) and Alice Mirikitani (poet), and numerous others. Japanese traditions are kept alive and passed on to the younger generations. Japanese shops, traditional restaurants, and cultural activities abound. They are just one of the cultures that make San Francisco and the Bay Area a rich and interesting place to live or visit.
        Keep doing what you enjoy, adding your own piece to the cultural patchwork that makes the world an interesting and happy place!

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