Matsudai roundup

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I've been away from the computer mainly spending more time in Matsudai. So much happened last weekend that I'm hard pressed to recount it all, but here I go.

Thank you to Hanako Murakami for introducing me to Matsudai and its people. I really do love that town. And congratulations to Hanako for shepherding an amazing performance of mushroom dancing at Nobutai on Friday last week. "Kinseees!" was an energetic, delightful surprise.

Higashino-sensei's dance as the お化けキンコ (mushroom ghost) was exactly the right complement to the old folks doing their dances. She encouraged them, teased out their special talents and made the evening flow. Motohei-san, at 82 the oldest dancer in the group, was so full of joy and humour that it was hard not to whoop and holler during all his little solos. I know how much work everyone put into creating the evening's entertainment, and I think all 160 of the audience members were impressed. I didn't take my camera that evening, choosing to enjoy the event without the lens between me and it - a wise decision, even though it means no pictures for you.

One of the items in the Kinseees! program was each dancer's favorite mushroom. The モグラ was often mentioned, but we don't know "mogura" as a mushroom - it's a mole. Now Tod does cutest impression of a mogura (the mole, not the mushroom) that makes me giggle and ask for encores.

The two days after Kinseees! were the Matsudai matsuri. We hung around town to tour the Triennial art and spent Saturday evening drinking and singing with the adult children of some of the dancers. I had my recording gear and turned the evening into the latest Hanashi Station podcast.

play mp3 Matsuri in Matsudai (10'15" 9.4 MB MP3)

Matsudai, population 4,000, is divided into three sections: Kammachi, uptown; Nakamachi, midtown; and Shimmachi, downtown. We were at the top of the hill in uptown most of the night, where the drunken karaoke and dancing took place. Midtown and downtown were equally lively, but more family-oriented.

Early in the evening, before the party really started, the skilled singers encouraged Tod & I get up and do a duet. You really cannot refuse people who ply you with sake and snacks. We flailed our way through John Denver's Country Roads - one of the few English songs in their midi-based karaoke system. Later on, we were called on to perform again - "Mr. Tod and Kristen dancing please!" - and foxtrotted clumsily to some beautifully sung enka.

The town reporter captured all of this and more with his camera, so I expect there will be at least one photo of us in the local newspaper. Horrors! But I wonder how I can get my hands on a copy of it?

Over the course of the evening, we were treated to many plates of food, cups of drink and little gifts. I was so stunned by the generosity that I took an account: 6 onigiri; 2 bowls of kenchin soup; 2 dishes of pickles; 10 sticks of yakitori; 4 shiso-cheese gyoza; 1 plate of fried octopus; 2 grilled sazae; 1 packet of otsumami; 1 harisen clapper; 1 pink stuffed monkey; 1 pair pink sequined devil horns; 1 pair of sequined devil horns; 2 glasses of tea; countless cups of sake.

All that, plus a few things I was actually allowed to pay for, made up the feast of the evening as we sat around the streetside fire pit. Thank goodness there were a lot of people in our little tribe to share the bounty. I don't think anyone went hungry that night.

After the matsuri, I rolled a very tipsy Tod down the street to Kimie-san's family's second house, where we spent the night with Hanako and her crew. In the morning, before anyone had a chance to sip their coffee, Kimie-san turned up with freshly cooked rice and laid our breakfast table of pickles, simmered dishes, soup and rice. She is such an amazing hostess.

We took our leave of Matsudai the next day, after watching the kids' parade of mikoshi (portable temples). Tod helped to pull one of the huge wagons full of kids. I turn turns with the local police are trying to catch fish with a paper spoon. I took photos which I will develop and post eventually.

If this were my last trip to Matsudai, I'd be sad, but I am hoping/planning to go back in a couple of weeks to harvest rice with Akira-san, Kimie's husband. I may be a liabiliity, but I will work hard and it will be a good experience. Matsudai always is.

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