Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 147- October 7

By Al

Today was the first day of the Kunchi festival.  This is one of the great festivals of Japan.  People come from all over Japan.  It is impossible to get a hotel room.  Thank goodness the Rotary had arrange for our rooms.  There are 40 towns, or what we would call neighborhoods, in Nagasaki.  Each neighborhood performs at the festival every 7 years.  So, some years there are 5 and some 6 neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a presention of town elders.  Each gives a performance.  Sometimes it is a dance and sometimes a musical performance.  Each town has a float, usually a minature ship that is pushed around and spun with great effort.  Also, each neighborhood has a large structure that is carried by one person.  I usually weighs about 300 pounds and is decorated at the top with somehting that is typical of the neighborhood.  It is called a kasaboko. Obviously, this cannot be carried all day by one person, so there is a team that goes with it and the members switch off.  When they get to a performance area, they do a little dance, which is very impressive.  There are four performance sites, but the parties walk between the cites and do small performances on the way. 

We had front row seats at one of the performance venues. (Sally's comment-   We were treated as honored guests, and asked to stand and wave to the sudience)   It was the same venue tht the mayor attended.  Before the performances he waved at us.  After the performance her stopped to talk to Amy.

The mayor and other dignitaries.  We also had front row seats thanks to the Rotarians.

A kasaboko.  One man is holding it up and spinning with it.

This is the top.


Another kasaboko.

And, another.

And another.

This is one of the boat floats.  They are alll pushed and twirled by hand.  This one is dutch theamed.  The dutch used to have an island in Nagasaki.  When the the shogun outlawed all foreigners and foreign trade, he made an exception for Nagasaki.  The dutch were allowed to live on a very small island in Nagasaki harbor and do limited trade with the local Japanese.

Another kasaboko.

The dragon from the dragon dance.  This was first performed by Chinese living in Nagasaki, but is now the duty of one of the Nagasaki neighborhoods.

Sally' Pictures
Here are a few pictures I took of the festival.

These dancers are wearing costumes with several layers.  This was their first dance, which was followed twice by removal of a layer, and another dance.

Each town has a parade of mothers and children dressed in costumes appropriate to the town's presentation.  This mom and son are from the town which presented the Chinese dragon dance.

This town's performers were dressed in two-person dragon costumes.  They performed acrobatics and played drums.  Each group provides encores, with the number of encores based on the cheers and clapping of the audience.  Each town is represented by cheerleaders who encouraged us to cheer. The usually quiet Japanese are quite loud and demonstrative at this event!

Here you can see one of the kasaboko carriers under the kasaboko. 

This boy (who appeared to be between 4 and 6 years old) was on one of the Dutch ships.  Plastic fish were spread on the ground in front of the ship, and he threw out a net to catch the fish.  Quite a high-pressure task for a little kid.  He was successful.

The festival showed the diverse influences in Nagasaki.  Japan was closed to Westerners for about a century.  Nagasaki had a man-made island, on which Dutch traders were permitted to live.  It was the only city accessible by traders from Western countries.  The Dutch presence is honored by presentations from two cities with Dutch ship floats.  Nagasaki also had many Chinese people living in the city.  Their presence is honored by two groups- one with the long dragon and the other with the two-person dragons.

Day 146- October 6

By Al

Today was the day for the dedication of the statue.  None of us had seen the location or the base where the statue is installed in Nagasaki.  We got to the location early.  The statue was covered in a sheet.  There was a seating area for us and Nagasaki Rotarians.  There were several city officials  and the American consul to Nagasaki.  The high point for me was when Naoko Sato arrived.  Naoko was an exchange student who had lived with us in 1998 and 1999.  We had lost touch with her and I had asked Shige if she was in Nagasaki.  It turned out that she had been working in Tokyo but that she was now back in Nagasaki.  He invited her to the dedication for us.  It was so good to see her again.  Her mother (who we had visited on our previous trip to Nagasaki) was with her.

At the dedication, the president of the Rotary Club of St. Paul spoke.  The president of the Rotary Club of Nagasaki spoke.  Most impressively, the Mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihiso Taue, spoke.  This dedication was covered by the local newspapers and television stations.

Preparing for the dedication.  The building in the background is part of the Nuclear Holocaust Museum.

President McKeown speaking at the dedication.

President Araki speaking.

Mayor Taue speaking

The shroud being pulled down.

The statue reveled.

After the dedication, we went to a local hotel for a reception.  There were speeches and presentations and really good food.  The mayor stayed around and talked with people.  He seemed to take a particular liking to Amy and spent some time talking to her about Nagasaki.

The Mayor speaking at the reception.

Sally and Amy listening to the Mayor.

District Governor Kovarik speaking at the reception

Bill Hueg, the artist who produced the statute.

The plaque at the statue.

Drew, Amy, Sally and me at the statue.

After the reception, we returned to the Nuclear Holocaust Museum and the Peace Park.  It is a very moving combination.  It really makes the devastation of nuclear war real.  

This is the St. Paul statue in the Peace Park.  It is called Constellation Earth and was done by Paul T. Granlund.

This is the main statue at the Peace Park.

That evening President Araki hosted us at the top floor of a Nagasaki hotel.  It was very fancy.

Sally's Comments

Here is the American Consul, Jason Cubas. A nice young guy, who brought his 7-year-old son with him.  He told me that his son attends the international school- which includes children from many countries.  The teachers speak English in the classroom.  Two problems have arisen.  First, the common language of the children is Japanese- so Japanese is the playground language.  In addition, the teacher needs to speak slowly in the classroom because that is the only place some of the children hear English.  This results in his son being bored- many times he finishes the assignment before the teacher finishes the instructions.  He has been able to convince the school to permit his son to be in the math class for the next grade so that he doesn't get bored.

The hypercenter of where the bomb landed.  The surrounding area was lowered by about 3 feet as a result.

The Peace Park is filled with statues presented from many cities and countries.  Many of them are figures of mothers and children. 
A few comments on the mayor.  The two previous mayors were shot.  The first survived.  The second died 5 days before the election.  The present mayor worked in tourism development for the city, and jumped into the race.  He defeated the deceased mayor's son-in-law by a few hundred votes, but there was no re-count or challenge to his election.
The prime minister of Japan visited Nagasaki this year on August 9.  The mayor gave a strong, ariculate anti-nuclear speech.  He has a philosophy of making the goverment very open to citizens and city staff.  I think our own Mayor Coleman and he would get along well.

Day 145- October 5

By Al

In the morning, Amy and I made a quick trip to the mochi shop to get some take away.  While we were doing that, Sally and Drew transferred our luggage to the train station.  Amy and I joined them there and we took the local train to Shin Osaka to catch the Shinkonsen.  We had one transfer toward the end to a local train.  We were met at the train station by Shige Nakamura, the Nagasaki Rotarian who was our main contact with Nagasaki as we made plans for the statue.

He walked us to our hotel, where we met the rest of the delegation from St. Paul.  At the hotel, Sally, Amy, Drew and I shared the same room.  Half of the room had western style beds.  Half had tatami on the floor and futons for sleeping.  Amy and Drew elected the tatami half of the room. 

We went to a nearby hamburger restaurant- we all had the same meal- a large hamburger patty on top of a lettuce salad.  It was the only meal the restuarant served. It was great.

By Sally

This is another view of our room at the Osaka Youth Hostel- taken after we had packed and removed all our stuff.  It shows the table in the middle, and the closets which hold the futons and bedding.  There is a balcony behind the sliding door- no furniture on the balcony, but a clothes drying rack- which we used to dry our towels.  Another thing that interests me in Japanese life.  Most apartments have balconies. Most balconies have a clothes drying rack or clothes lines.  Most balconies that I see from the train have clothes hanging out to dry.  It seems most apartments in the U.S. have rules against hanging out clothes to dry on the balcony.

Amy and Drew on the futons in our Nagasaki room. Amy is making the Japanese peace sign- which you often see in pictures of Japanese youth.  The hotel provides each guest with a robe and slippers.   The traditional section had a raised floor, with a table and floor chairs.  It appeared that the room was used as a suite when only two people occupied the room, with the tatami section being the sitting area.  Like the Osaka room, it was small- reminded me of New York hotel rooms. 

Day 143- October 3

Our Trip to Nara

By Sally (note: you may want to read Al's entry first.  I mistakenly inserted mine first, and am too lazy to move it.)

Another interesting bathroom feature- a sink with a built in hand dryer at the front.  Since it would not be apparent to everyone that the sink includes a hand dryer, there are instructions at the front of the sink.  This may decrease efficiency of restroom use- since you remain at the sink to dry your hands rather than moving to a separate hand dryer.

Drew is holding a package of biscuits which are sold in the deer park.  The plentiful biscuits that the visitors give the deer keep the deer in the park.  Deer will come running upon seeing someone holding the biscuits.  Fortunately, the deer are wise enough not to approach the biscuit sellers.

By Al                                                                                                                                  
Today, we went to Nara, which is about an hour train ride from Osaka.  It is most famous for its giant Buddha.  It is really big, but the other thing of importance is that it is housed in the largest wood building in the world.  Most people go to see the Buddha but don't look at the building.

A shrine to children in Nara along side the sidewalk.

Amy with a volunteer guide from the Nara Visitors Bureau.  They are walking throught the Yakushiji Temple.

Nara is famous for its tame deer.  They are all over.

Drew, Amy and a deer.

Constructed in 752 on the order of Emperor Shomu, Todaiji Temple's Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsu-den) in Nara is the largest wooden structure in the world and houses an immense statue of Rushana Butsu, the "Cosmic Buddha."  You can ge an idea of its size by noticing the people standing in front of the building. The current building was constructed in 1709. 

It is hard to get a picture that shows the size of the Buddha.  It is 49.1 feet tall.

This is Bishamonten, of of the guardians of the temple.

This is Komukuten, another guardian

A statute outside the building.

This was a Rotary meeting place that we saw as we walked around Nara on our way back to the train station.  Unfortunately, they were not meeting.

A street sculpture.  There are sculptures randomly all over Japan.

Amy and Drew getting into the act.