Kendo Tournament and Sanja Matsuri
On Saturday I ate lunch with a friend and his family. I went over to his house and we all made takoyaki together. After that I made my way to Tokyo Budokan where they were holding a Kendo tournament for many universities in the area. On Sunday I went to Sanja Matsuri (a festival) and watched a friend play Taiko. Then today I felt my first earthquake.
I have to talk about the earthquake first, simply because I’m kind of excited to say I experienced my first earthquake. I was sitting in the dining hall of our dorm when the building began to shake. Our dorm is right next to the train station, so when the shaking started, I thought maybe something was up with the trains. That was when everybody’s phone started going off with the earthquake alert, and I was like, holy crap. I’m experiencing an earthquake.
I found out later that the epicenter of the earthquake registered as a 5.6 on the seismic scale. That’s why our phones went off (because they send out alerts for any earthquake that is a 5 or higher) but the alert was a little late. We felt the shaking long before our phone went off. However, my dorm is located in Saitama, so it was only about a 4 on the seismic scale for us.
Lunch with my friend and his family on Saturday was a lot of fun. Unfortunately I couldn’t spent too much time with them because I had to go to the kendo tournament, but I still enjoyed the opportunity. I’m not sure why, but I was actually super worried to meet my friends family. I made my way to the station that was closest to their house, and then they picked me up by car. I was surprised to find that my friend’s dad spoke decent English, and that helped alleviate some of my fears. We stopped at the nearby convenience store to pick up some cooking supplies and then made our way back to his house.
At his house I met his mom and was surprised when his mom gave me a hug. In my experience, Japanese are not touchy-feely type of people nor are they very outgoing, so I was super surprised that she would greet me in such a way, but I appreciated it. Her welcoming attitude helped wipe away any fears that had remained of meeting his family.
We all worked together around their kitchen table to make takoyaki. It was the first time I’ve eaten takoyaki, and I’m really not a big fan of octupus, but the pieces were small so I was able to eat them without a problem. After, we took pieces of chocolate and put it into the batter mix (replacing the octopus) and cooked them. Now those were really good. I would definitely love to eat one of those again.
Unfortunately I didn’t have too much time to hang out with them because I had to go to the Kendo Tournament. My friend and his father were nice enough to drive me to Tokyo Budokan where the tournament was being held, and I have to say that riding in their van was pretty cool. The middle seat of the van actually faced the back of the van. It was cool because it made it easier for whoever was in the back to talk with one another, but it definitely took a minute for me to get used to.
The tournament was absolutely packed. I couldn’t believe how many different schools were there, and I think the more surprising part to me was that the people in the stands were mostly students who had come to cheer on their teammates (they had probably been required to come, but that’s beside the point). I was surprised that I really didn’t see any parents there.
Some people may have been bored by the Kendo Tournament, but I found it almost nostalgic. I never did Kendo, but I did martial arts throughout middle and high school, and our tournaments had a very similar feeling. The hustle and bustle of the people trying to manage several different rings running at once and keep everything running smoothly was exactly the same, and the anticipation builds as rings begin to finish and you slowly get closer and closer to the championship match.
On Sunday I went to Sanja Matsuri which is a really big festival in Asakusa. Sensō-ji is already known for its big shopping street Nakamise Dori, but with the festival going on they had even more shops set up selling all sorts of traditional Japanese foods and other souvenirs. It was crazy busy and pretty hard to walk down the street, but it was manageable. Unfortunately the stuff was a little expensive, but that’s because it was a festival. After walking around the stalls for a little while, we made our way over to Asakusa shrine where my friend would be performing Taiko. Because of how busy it was, we decided to go early so we could get a good spot. There was a whole group of people from the dorm who went, and some were lucky enough to get spots up front, but I was not one of those people. I on the other hand, found a nearby stone statue to climb up on. The ledge I was standing on was really thin and I was using my elbows to hold on to the statue, so if somebody bumped me I probably would have fallen backwards and cracked my head open, but it was totally worth it to be able to see.