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Kawagoe Omatsuri

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004

Japan has many festivals big and small. These festivals are generally very cultural and traditional. I think it’s a great opportunity to learn about Japanese culture and traditional Japanese art forms. Last Saturday, I went with other ALT friends from neighboring towns to my first major Japanese festival, the “Kawagoe Omatsuri” or the “Kawagoe festival”. Kawagoe is the name of the city. Fortunately for me, that city is only 40 minutes and one train ride away from Ogawa. We went there late in the afternoon since we heard the festival becomes more festive at night. I was very excited when I got there, seeing all these people. For some reason, I just love people watching in Japan! The streets were already packed with people and we were nudging and squeezing ourselves through the herd. It was sort of fun, and then sort of not. We were a group of seven and we constantly had to call each other on cell phones to ask “where are you?!” after getting separated a million times. Anyway, Japanese festival is quite interesting. A big part of the festival is always FOOD!! The festival would not be the same if it weren’t for the street vendors selling various food items and traditional Japanese dishes. What’s so great about these food are that they make them right on the spot for you so when you get it, it’s nice and hot! The topic of Japanese food can go on for hours so I won’t elaborate on them now and explain about them exclusively later. One thing I will say is that food was definitely the money maker at the festival. Smart business strategy wouldn’t you say?!

So, if I explained about the Kawagoe festival last week, all I would have said was that there were many people, food, and these giant car thingys with performers on them playing some music tunes. Not very useful information don’t you think? But, after a week of talking about the festival with one of the English teacher I teach with, I gained new insights and profound knowledge about the festival. Ok, so I lied about profound but I did learn some useful information. Apparently, the main attractions were these giant cart things with large wheels allowing it to move around. I want to call these carts “floats” but the word floats doesn’t seem suitable for what I’m trying to describe. The Japanese name for these carts are called “dashi.” Unlike floats, they’re quite short in length but they’re quite tall in height. I’m not good at guessing height so I’ll say 20-30 feet high? Each dashi is decorated exquisitely and uniquely because they represent different towns or cities. On the dashi, there are tiny stages where one person wears a mask and a costume and do some movement or dance while the musicians behind play a tune on his recorder or a beat on his drum. This continues forever. I never heard the music stop or saw the person in costume stop dancing. When many dashi meet at an intersection in the street, a battle of the drum ensues to decide which dashi will get to move first and in the direction of its choice. Since each dashi has a unique tune and beat, the objective is to disrupt each other’s rhythm. Whoever can sustain their rhythm without any wavering or change in tune is the winner and gets to move first. The dashi move by a team of people pulling on two thick ropes, ones that remind me of tug-of-war ropes. When the team of people pulls on these ropes, they seem to be yelling some type of chant, “sore (re = ray)…..sore…….sore…..” I just found out its not really any word, its something they chant to mean something in respect to, “come on, you can do it” or “let’s do it.” Aren’t you glad I waited to find out more about the festival before I explained it? Then again, laziness could be a factor why I didn’t post this any earlier…..

More pictures from the festival


Saturday, October 16th, 2004

Ogawa, population ~36,000. Cerritos, population ~52,000. Ogawa = Town, Cerritos = City. Mode of transportation around Ogawa: bicycle. Mode of transportation around Cerritos: car. It’s a new environment and a new lifestyle that I’m getting use to. In fact, it is a much simpler and peaceful lifestyle. Ogawa is considered the countryside of Japan. The word for countryside is “Inaka” (I is pronounced like the letter e, like the word emotion). You hear the word “Inaka” a lot in Japan. If it isn’t a big city like Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Hiroshima, then there’s a pretty good chance everywhere else is countryside. Especially Ogawa, which has a suffix “machi” town, attached to it stating that it is countryside.

Being in Ogawa has a very different feel to it than being in Tokyo. Ogawa feels relaxed and quiet where Tokyo is intense and noisy. Both has its pros and cons depending on how you look at it. During the week, I lead a pretty simple life. I get to school about 8am, and leave school around 4:15ish. I come back to my apt., relax a bit and worry about what I should cook for dinner, make dinner, watch some tv, surf the internet, and then go to bed and start over the next day. I live in an apartment all by myself, which I think is the coolest ever because I never had a whole place to myself before. I enjoys having my own space and privacy so this was perfect. My rent for my place is only U.S. $400/ month because my Board of Education subsidizes around 1/3 of my rent. Cool huh?! The BoE also provided me with a new mountain bike to get around schools and around Ogawa. Of course it’s only a loaner because once I leave Ogawa, the bike goes to the new ALT that replaces me but still, a new bike right? And not those crappy and weak looking Japanese bicycle that has no gears and a basket in front, although the basket would come in handy when I go grocery shopping! hmmm

My apartment is my castle. I had a smile when I walked into my apartment for the very first time back in late July. Every JET hopes their apt. is not the size of a game cube. I was lucky to find my apt. relatively new, relatively large in respect to Japan size, and fully furnished. That saved me a lot of money! I have 2 rooms, 1 living room, 1 kitchen, and 1 bathroom. It’s definitely plenty of space for me. A family of 4 lives below me so if they’re doing ok, I’m living in luxury here. I can always find peace and tranquility in my apt. I always have my stereo on playing music while I do something and even as we speak now, the music is on and I’m typing away. If I open my windows, it’s still the same!! Quiet!! Back in the blistering humid summer nights of August, I would get cricket sounds outside and that’s about it. On Friday nights and weekends, there’s hardly any cars on the road so no noise pollution whatsoever. So this is what countryside is like….how refreshing!

If you’re interested to see what Ogawa and my apt. looks like:

Typhoon 22

Sunday, October 10th, 2004
Whereever I go, I somehow cannot escape natural disasters. If it isn't "Earthquakes" in L.A., it's "Snow Storm" in Boston, or "Hurricane" in Washington, DC. For now, it's "Typhoons" in Japan. In fact, it's typhoon season, YAY?! ... [Continue reading this entry]

So It Begins……

Friday, October 8th, 2004
I got punched in the nuts today by a girl student!! And the adventure continues as an English teacher in Japan. Just to let everybody know where I'm situated, I live in Ogawa-machi(town) within Saitama-Ken(prefecture). Just as ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, October 5th, 2004
TonyWhere is Tony now? So, I have embarked on another journey. A journey that takes me across the Pacific Ocean to the "Land of the Rising Sun." Umm....that would be ... [Continue reading this entry]