We arrived Friday evening by ferry from Naoetsu – but the festival was in Ogi. Even though all the English speaking Japanese seemed to have disappeared, we found ourselves without too much trouble on a bus to Ogi, together with a number of other Westeners. Most of them actually worked in Japan as English teachers. It seems that it is incredibly easy to get a job in Japan as a teacher – a good thing to know for everybody who ever toyed with the idea of spending a year abroad.
We arrived a little to late for the Kodo concert that evening, and decided instead to take it easy and to explore the flea market area in Ogi. It was a magical night – there were stalls with food and beautiful crafts, the air was mellow, and we could hear the concert drums in the background. This time we were staying in a hostel, and upon arrival the waiting queue for the showers developed into an impromptu lounge party.
Saturday was our first “real” day, and we were diving head on into the fringe events: Miyake Taiko, Hula from Hawaii (yes, really!), and… Kodo, who gave a short performance together with Koji Kakinuma. It was hot. And humid. And did I mention that it was hot? Still, in order to reach the site of the Kodo workshop, we had to walk up that hill, in the sun. And it was worth every drop of sweat. The workshop was run by Yoshikazu Fujimoto, one of Kodo’s stars. But he is the sweetest, most gentle person. The workshop consisted of only 24 students (and was sold out a long time ago. Only thanks to Maha’s wit to plan early we got those tickets).
After doing some clapping excercises on our legs we were let loose on the drums. He made us play a simple beat for 15 minutes straight (dum, da-da-dum, da-da-dum…). I was breaking a sweat, and wasn’t alone – as opposed to the instructors, for whom the whole excercise must have been a bore (but they didn’t show it). Anyway, for us, the students, the air was filled with electricity.
Finally, we were learning the actual song. Oh, and by the way, the instructions were all in Japanese, of course. Only when one of us Westerners was struggling a little too much, Fujimoto came over and explained with hands, feet, and a little bit of English, always with the biggest smile on his face.
In the meantime, a photographer entered the gym, taking particular interest in Maha and me. Later that day we met him again and interviewed us. His name was Johann, and he was a freelance photographer for Sony’s World Event Village Project. Keep your eyes open on that website to catch coverage of Maha and me – however, when I checked just now (8/22), the Earth Celebration wasn’t covered yet.
We ended the day by hanging out in the bath house (Onzen) near our dorm – a perfect way to end a perfect day.