Noh Workshop, 4th of July, and Karaoke

It’s already July. I’ll be going back to America at the end of this month. I can’t even say “going home,” because this place has also become a home to me. While I miss my family and friends in America, I am in no rush to go back. I always knew my time here was limited, but I’m starting to feel it more and more. Every moment I’m not doing something feels like a moment wasted. With that in mind, I’ve been keeping myself busy.

On Saturday I went to a Noh workshop that was being held at Rikkyo. Noh is a traditional Japanese musical drama. Chances are, you’ve probably seen pictures of the masks that are often used in Noh, even if you didn’t realize what it was for.

At the workshop they dressed us all in kimonos and gave us traditional fans. Then we sat down and they gave us a little explanation of Noh. They talked about the style of kimono worn during performances (which is really expensive, by the way) and how it was different from the traditional kimono. The underclothes are thicker, making the actor look bigger, and the robe itself is usually covered with elaborate colors and embroidery. The actor also wears a wig of long black hair. Lastly is the mask. The mask is very unique in that tilting the mask in certain ways makes the mask look happy or sad. Therefore, all of the movements in Noh are very precise so as not to accidentally tilt the mask. The performer often bows to the mask before putting it on because they believe that when putting on the mask, they embody the spirit.

After that, we got to actually learn some of the movements from one of the dances. We learned the proper way to “sit,” which is actually just resting on the balls of you feet. We also learned the proper way to open the fan and how to hold it. Walking was quite difficult because you couldn’t step. Doing so would unintentionally tilt the mask. Instead you had to slide your feet. It was hard because I felt like I was super stiff in my attempt to not make any uneccesary movements, but the teacher looked so fluid when he moved.

I’ll admit that as interesting as it was to learn about Noh, I was a little frustrated by the workshop. The English translator really struggled and was constantly stumbling over her words, which sort of took away from the workshop. Secondly, the teaching style was hard to follow. There are many movements (legs and arms) in several different directions. They tried to teach us all the things at once, and I found myself not remembering any of it. I would have preferred to learn the steps and directions and then learn the arm movements. Even if they didn’t separate the steps and arm movements, they could have at least broken it down a little more.

Personally, Noh isn’t really my thing, but I found it very interesting to learn about, and I give credit to anybody who practices it. It is not easy. It takes a great amount of patience, discipline, and concentration. It’s strenuous and tiring, but when done correctly, it looks really cool. When watching the teacher perform at the end of the workshop, you could definitely tell that he had no doubt spent countless hours practicing the same things over and over again. I’m glad I got the opportunity to experience it.

Yesterday was the 4th of July, which is Independance Day in America. Once classes were over for the day, I went out to an Izakaya (a casual drinking establishment with small food dishes and lots of alcohol) with some friends from America to celebrate my friend’s 21st birthday. Many of the people I went with were people I knew from America but attended different schools than me. We all were in Japan for different reasons and were staying here for different lengths of time, but it was really nice that some of us were able to meet up. That’s the convenient thing about Japan. In America, some of these people attend universities that are up to six hours away from me by car. However, here in Japan, we can all meet up in 20 minutes. It was great (except for the fact that I don’t drink alcohol, haha).

After that my friend and I took the small Sparklers (small fireworks) that were in his room and lit them off by the river. It was fun being able to celebrate an American holiday with my friends here in Japan.

Also, I went to karaoke twice this week. I have to get in all the karaoke I can before I go home, haha. Normally, I’ll post pictures, but I don’t post videos from when I go to karaoke with friends because they are uncomfortable with having something like that posted on the Internet for everybody to see. However, this time I have a video of just me singing so I figured it would be alright if I posted it. I definitely missed a few notes, but I’m not shy, so feel free to check out the video.

I sang this song at the request of a friend. It’s called ハナミズキ (Hanamizuki) and it is original sung by 一青窈 (Yo Hitoto).


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