This past weekend was filled with new experiences and enjoying time with my host family. On Saturday, my host mom took me to her nephew’s school for their field day, which in Japanese is called 運動会 (undokai). I remembered the field days I had in middle school where advisories would compete in all these events and, of course, in the big tug of war battle at the end which was always the highlight. Japanese field days, especially the one I went to since it was just 1st through 6th graders, are set up quite differently.
Each grade had a running race split up in heats of 5 girls and boys which were signaled by a pistol shot up into the air. Parents of all the children gathered around and cheered on their son or daughter, creating a very lively atmosphere despite the summer heat. Between running events, each class put on a dance performance. My favorites were the younger grades who danced to a minions version of YMCA and a medley of Big Bang songs! The kids were so adorable! >.< (See @jochijourneys on instagram for videos!)
lunch time! (source)
After cheering on the kids and watching the cute dance performances, we headed to the outer area of the school to enjoy a nice picnic lunch. My host mom and her son’s family brought so much delicious food and so did the many other families that lined the grassy areas around the building. The events continued after that and my host mom’s nephew got first place in his event! She, being the best grandmother, bought him whatever he wanted from Bic Camera (a tech store in Japan) which I am sure he loved.
Sunday brought about my first time trying Iaido, a modern Japanese martial art that uses swords. The movements of this art mimic those used by warriors to kill their opponents in ancient Japan. My host mom and her friends attend monthly sessions with an Iaido sensei to learn this form and she wanted to take us along so we could learn a bit of it ourselves. The sensei taught us a very basic set of moves with a wooden sword (the real swords are actually quite dangerous, I did get to hold one though!) and it was a really unique experience.
Sensei showing the moves we learned (source)
Watching the class practice made me realize how different forms of meditation and dance all tie into each other as they require focus and concentration on the task at hand, whether it be a specific yoga pose or a sword movement. Each move was clean and precise and it reminded me of my dance teacher correcting my every move and making sure the whole piece was perfectly done. My host mom, during the session, was explaining to me how before class they pray to the kami (gods) which I told her was exactly what we do in Indian dance. Even though the two forms may seem completely separate, there are so many aspects of it that tie them together. I really enjoyed learning about this new art form and experiencing a part of Japanese culture that pulls from the days of the samurai.