Monday, July 26, 2010

Yamato Bon Festival

Bon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spirits of one's ancestors. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.

Bon Odori, meaning simply Bon dance is an event held during Bon. It is celebrated as a reminder of the gratitude one should feel toward their ancestors.

I can't say I am Japanese, or that I danced the Bon Odori dances for the reasons they were meant for, but I sure felt special in my patriotic yukata this Saturday! I might have stood out, and even had Japanese ask me if they could take my picture (and others not even bothering, just snapping away without asking!) but I still was proud to be American, if even in a foreign land where not everyone looks kindly on us gaijin!

Posing in my yukata...
Showing off the obi (belt and bow)
Several of the military spouses on base have been practicing once a week with a few Japanese instructors, to learn the dances that we would be dancing at the Bon Festival. There are 12 dances in all and we will be dancing on 3 different dates. This past Saturday I danced for the first time in Yamato at their Bon street festival. We paraded through the major streets of Yamato doing 2 of the dances we had learned. Though the dances are fairly easy, and we repeated them several times, I found myself getting distracted by the crowd and losing my steps! (And trust me, I was not the only one!)

With all the hyped up people watching on the sidewalks as we danced along the tiny streets of Yamato, it was easy to forget what you were doing and simply get lost in the music, clapping, and noise of the crowd!

My number one fan...in fact he stalked me during the entire festival, following me with a camera. He took several videos of me and my fellow dancers, helping us to get distracted and loose our choreography! Thank you hubby!
Getting ready to begin...
In formation, about to start marching through the streets!
Do a little dance...
Pausing for a music change...and photo op for my personal photographer!
Our instructors... (the little Japanese lady next to me was the one I mentioned in an earlier post, who sternly corrected me during practice. I made sure not to mess up in her presence again!)
And for your viewing pleasure...a little video from my paparazzi! As you will notice, he doesn't hide his presence, making it hard to concentrate on the dances!

video


Loved these cute little kids...they were in one of the dances for the parade as well. There was one video that I will not share where Nick is videoing me and I inconspicuously tell him to take pictures of the precious kids! Which he did...Thanks again Nick!
More dancers

My friends Mari and Rebekah were 2 of the 3 Americans to get to take part in this special dance, Awa Odori! This was the first year they let Americans do this traditional dance. The Awa Odori dances are much more intense than the Bon Odori, as are the practices. The girls practiced for 2 months, 3 days a week for 4 hours each practice!!!

Mari and I after one of her performances! Gotta love those "taco" hats! They might look funny, but they give a dramatic effect to the dances.
Mari, Rebekah and the rest of the Awa Odori girls had their first performance on Friday on base. Since I wasn't dancing until Saturday, I got to go watch, take video and pictures of their dances. It is so cool to witness firsthand, video doesn't do it justice...but I have to share a little segment of their dance anyways...

video

I couldn't help but be jealous that I wasn't able to dance with them! Their performance is awesome every time they do it! (Practices started just before I got here, and on top of that, I still had to take my orientation class as well as house hunt, so I wasn't able to partake in this years Awa Odori dances! Hopefully, next year they will allow Americans to do it again!!!)

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