I’ve been writing and editing then deleting this post. I want to say something about the events in Japan, but there seem to be no appropriate words I can think of that will make sense.
I offer my prayers to friends in Japan, to the folks whose blogs I follow and have become friends with over the years, to friends who have families living in Japan, specifically in the affected areas. I pray you are all safe, and that we’ll hear good news about your whereabouts and conditions soon.
I remember hearing about Yamato: Drums of Japan from my cousin Miel a few years back. Japan Foundation Manila invited them for a performance and she was able to attend. I’ve been wanting to see them but I somehow keep missing the schedule and ending up hearing about it after the event.
Thankfully, through the power of social media, I was able to learn about it early on. I called JFMO to reserve some seats for tonight’s performance (July 10) and dragged various family members to go with me. Partners in crime: my sister Oski, Miel and her boyfriend Vero. Did I mention that this is for free?
Yamato, or Wadaiko Yamato is a performing group of taiko drummers formed in 1993 by Masa Ogawa in Nara, Japan. Ogawa was originally part of another wadaiko group but left to form Wadaiko Yamato. Initially, the group had ten members, five men and five women. While it wasn’t unusual for women to play in such a group, the female members of the Wadaiko Yamato play the same drums as the male members.
In an interview with BBC some years ago, Ogawa said that Japanese drums have a similarity to African drums, where they were used mainly for communication either amongst the people or to their gods and ancestral spirits. Western drums are mostly instrumental in fuction. Wadaika Yamato tries to combine both. (You can read more about the interview with Ogawa here)
We arrived just minutes before the performance began. There was already a huge crowd inside so even if we had reserved tickets, we weren’t able to get seats. No matter, since Sky Dome’s structure made it possible to view the stage from any angle (so long as someone doesn’t stand in front of you). Flash photography was prohibited, although there were marshals asking people not to take pictures at all. After I got told off after taking several pictures, I turned it off.
It’s not my first time to hear a taiko performance, but obviously, it was my first time to hear them live. The first strike of the drumstick on the surface of the drum is unforgettable. It reverberates deep down, you just don’t hear it, but feel it as well.
For nearly two hours, we were treated to a world class performance by excellent artists. It wasn’t just a musical experience, but also a visual one. The Yamato performers moved along with the beat of their instruments, and even had entertaining skits that had the audience laughing and participating.
It wasn’t just all drums too. One of the performances had the female members all playing shamisen, a three-stringed guitar-like instrument that is played with a bachi (think of big guitar pick). Another performance had the male members playing with small cymbals, while in their encore number, one of the female players had a flute.
Watching them perform would give you an idea that it wasn’t just a matter of hitting the drums. For one, the muscles on the drummers’ arms would tell you that it takes a lot of effort. Each member, including the females, would definitely need to have have strong arm muscles to be able to play tirelessly for nearly two hours. And it wasn’t just the arms. They moved around the stage, jumping and dancing. Sometimes they’d carry the drums around while playing them. I tell you, the energy that’s flowing from them will make you feel like you’ve performed as hard as they have after the show.
I’m stoked that I was able to get the chance to watch them. If they come back, I’ll definitely go see them again.
July 7 is the celebration of the Tanabata Festival in Japan. Tanabata means “evening of the seventh,” and is a Japanese star festival adapted from the Chinese one called Qi Xi.
Today, Japanese celebrate tanabata by writing their wishes on small pieces of paper and hanging them in bamboo. In some cases, the bamboo, wishes and decorations are burned after the festival.
Last week, in celebration of this, I went to a lecture at UP Diliman. Titled “Hajime no Ippo” (no relation to the manga/anime of the same title), it translates to “first step, according to Hanayama-san, our lecturer. It was basically an introduction to the Japanese language, composed mostly of greetings and such.
Afterwards, we were given tanzaku, pieces of paper to write our wishes in, and we wrote our names in Katakana. I discovered that though I had the characters right, the way I originally wrote it made it sound wrong.
Later, we had a tea ceremony and I got to taste it. It wasn’t bad, odd tasting at first, but it tasted ok.
Late yesterday afternoon, I met up with Drew at Makati to attend a lecture on teaching Katakana his friend Richard invited him to go to. Despite the fact that I can’t speak Japanese and the only sentence I can speak decently is the basic greeting, there were a few things I learned. I even managed to understand what one teacher was talking about. I’m not sure how but I think it was due to his hand gestures and facial expressions.
Food trip Finally got to eat at Sizzling Pepper Steak. It wasn’t as good as I expected, but it was good enough, and one order fills you up well.
Today, Gerone and I seemed to do nothing but eat. We had lunch at Jumbo Japs, nibbled on Reese’s Pieces while waiting for 1 pm, then bought 3 pieces of day old and two pieces of penoy. Did I mention there’s sans rival in the fridge?
Check-up We finally were able to bring Dion to the doctor. He has asthma, and the family was worried that since he was studying in the middle of the city, he might be prone to getting attacks and wanted to see a specialist.
We went to Medical City in Ortigas to Dr. Michelle de Vera. She said that what we’re doing now for Dion was good, considering that he doesn’t get attacks very often (but when he does, it’s really tough). She recommended that he carry an inhaler around all the time, use it as often as needed and call her if he uses it more often than normal.
Later on, Dion and I went around Recto to look for the books he needs for school. I was able to go inside FEU as well. It’s my first time to do so and I was pleasantly surprised. From the outside, you’d think that it would be crowded with a cluster of buildings. Definitely not like UP Diliman or Ateneo.
However, the campus has this huge space in the middle, and the surrounding areas are nicely landscaped with big trees providing cool shade. Not something you’d expect smack dab in the middle of the city.
Everyone who comes in gets their temperature checked and if found negative, stamped on with a “pass”. I wasn’t exempted haha.