My students, Yoshiki Tsuchimochi and Taichirio Hidaka wrote some pieces for a journal which comes out once a year. The journal is of writings of students all over Miyazaki Prefecture. I would like to write a translation of each one for my readers.
Taichiro wrote about his father, who loves fishing in the river and sea. He is, by the way, the teacher who sits three seats from me at the Junior High. His mother is in charge of the English lessons at the elementary. She is the fifth grade teacher. Mr. Hidaka is a very good father. He loves his three sons very much, and spends a great deal of time with his family. Here is an excerpt from "My father, A Man of the River":
"When the float goes under, quickly reel in," was my father's advice. Even with my father's advice, I couldn't easily do a very good job.
I went carrying the net with my father, down to the river. "Its my first time, so I'm nervous. I wonder if there are snakes swimming in there..." I thought to myself. Many fish were swimming that evening at the river.
"Wow," said my father.
"Yeah," I responded.
Yoshiki is another fourth grader. He wrote about the ritual dances, called the "Kagura", 神楽, which are passed down through generations here in Nishimera. The dances call the gods and goddesses to a center in the dead of winter. They bring the energy of the other world into this world, and move it into position to prepare for a new year. The dances are like fertility dances, and dances for luck. I myself had the opportunity to practice with my Junior High Schoolers and it is an amazing feeling to do the dances. The music is very rhythmic and trance like. It reminds me of the Pow Wow drums of the Miwuk Tribe in Tuolumne, California. The instruments used are very ancient. The Japanese Taiko drum, The Bamboo Flute, and a stick of bells called a "Suzu" is used during the dance. Seated musicians make drum and flute music, and the dancers use the bells and sometimes a fan while dancing. The setup reminds me of when I studied belly dance, with the seated drummers and musicians, and the dancer using the zills(a small, two faced bell) to add to the music. I have only had the opportunity to see the dance a few times, but I hope to see more of it next winter.
The Kagura lasts from 7PM until 7AM, and is danced at many different holy places in the area during the month of December, to call on the gods. During the dance, the audience often becomes very quiet. They fall into a kind of trance, I think. That's the way I feel, anyway, for the music is very trance like and the dance seems repetitive (But don't be fooled! This dance is VERY difficult to do!)The audience has some opportunities to interact with the dancers as well. If audience members wrap coins in tissue paper, they can try to toss the coins into a crown on the head of the dancer, or into the dancer's kimono sleeve, whichever gives very good luck. My husband, Shinpei, was the first to toss a coin right into the crown of the dancer at the last Kagura. Everyone cheered, and it was very fun. People were very kind as well, and shared food and drink to make friends. This last time, Shipei and I watched the Kagura for about three hours with Yoshiki, and his big brother Yohei.
Yoshiki's excerpt is about his Kagura experience last year, when he became of age to perform in it. He trained for a month and a half, about 2 hours every day.
The winter performance day came. My performance begins. At first, I was nervous, but little by little, my nervousness ebbed away. As I performed, I noticed all the audience members who had come to watch. I noticed my grandfather's smiling face watching over me. Beside him, sat relatives who had come to watch.
I match the movement of the fan, the suzu, and my body to the rhythm of the Taiko drum. Although its winter, I am sweating. The sound of the taiko and the movement of my body ended. Afterwards, my father said, "Your father also began to do the Kagura when he was in third grade" "But I didn't do as well as you," he praised. This time I think that I did a good job at the Kagura. The sweat upon me cooled.