Last weekend the CIRs in my office put on our most ambitious international exchange event yet! Our spring event always falls right around the time of the lunar new year, which is a huge deal in Eastern cultures. Before I moved to Japan I didn’t have any idea that people still celebrated this holiday, but China, Korea, Vietnam and so on all observe this holiday like how we might observe Christmas. It’s observed in a few places around Japan, but I don’t know if anywhere else does it as big as Nagasaki does.
Chinese immigration and high Chinese populations in Nagasaki kept the lunar new year celebrations in the forefront of Nagasaki cultural events. From long ago, the Chinese residents would hang red lanterns in their residential areas. Finally, in 1994, the Nagasaki City government got totally onboard and they officially made “Nagasaki Lantern Festival” part of the city’s yearly events. Lanterns are hung all over the city, several different parks and shopping areas are transformed into small worlds of Chinese cultural symbols, figures, and delicious food. Below is the normally sleepy Central Park. People are kept outside that rope because the Dragon Dance Procession is about to come through.
Our international exchange event piggy-backed on this already delightfully intercultural celebration. Our aim was to help locals and expats enjoy the festival together. So, we came up with the “Nagasaki Lunar New Year Quest”. It’s essentially a scavenger hunt, but items are collected through taking pictures and finding information, with a few word puzzles thrown in.
First, we had everyone meet at the Dejima Koryu Kaikan and we listened to a lecture from Professor Honma Sadao on the history of Nagasaki and some background on the festival. Professor Honma is a Nagasaki Studies scholar and works as an advisor to the prefectural government on issues that relate to Nagasaki modern and early-modern history and culture. He told us about the profound influence that Chinese merchants had on Nagasaki, from the food they made to the religion they brought.
The teams were divided up so that there was a mix of locals and expats on each one, then they received a packet with the quest details. All of the teams were named after auspicious animals from Chinese culture, so we had Teams Turtle, Snake, Phoenix, Tiger, and Dragon. The quests were written sometimes in only in English, sometimes only Japanese, and sometimes both. This was our way of encouraging the teammates to cooperate on completing the quests.
After a quick ice-breaker we let the teams loose to scour the city to complete their quests. We purposefully made too many quests to be completed in the two hours we allotted them; we would rather it be a little too hard that too easy.
After the two hours were up we met back up in the Dejima Koryu Kaikan and tallied up the points. The contest was very close! There was a three-way tie for second place, but congratulations to Team Phoenix for grabbing the win!
I hope everyone had a fun time.
This will be my last exchange event I get to help plan and run for the Nagasaki Prefectural Government. I really enjoyed putting on these events, even though I’m thankful they only came around once a year. The work to make these events are just plopped on top of the CIRs’ regular workload, so things get a little hectic in the week or so leading up to them. But, it was all worth it to see so many people enjoying this Nagasaki festival and doing their best to conquer a language barrier. We CIRs actually coordinated some international relations last weekend !
Practice the Taiko and the Shinobue (the Japanese flute). Then perform in traditional clothing at local festivals during the spring, summer and fall of 2018.
Omura City Sea Hat music rehearsal hall. 25-33 Saiwai-mach Omura City Nagasaki.
Begins: Thursday, October 5, 19:00-21:30 (you may come late depending on your
Classes will be every Thursday after that or otherwise noted by the teacher.
￥4000 per month (costume and stick costs are separate)
Please e-mail for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Held with the backdrop of Shimabara castle, this Noh performance is one of the most popular events in the prefecture.
“In the Noh Theater, many different arts -poetry, music, dance and mime- converge at a level that does justice to all. The Noh Theater makes maximum demands on the audience. The texts are difficult and the relatively scant mimetic elements contribute more to establishing the inner tensions of the characters than to clarifying the words or actions. Some plays i…ndeed are so exceedingly slow-moving as to lull a sizable part of the audience to sleep. But precisely because it takes this risk Noh succeeds in its unique domain.” ~ 20 plays of the NŌ Theater
Shimabara castle Noh performance
Time: 2017/10/14(Sat) 16:00 Opening
Place: In front of Shimabara castle
Part Ι: Shimabara Kyogen Performance
-Shizen Shimabara Kids Kyogen
Shinto ritual : A ritual heating first lighting
Part II: Noh Performance
– Kanze style Noh dance in plain clothes
“Well crib” Kanze Yoshimasa
“Yamori” Kanze Atsuo
-Izumi style Kyogen
“Springwater” Nomura Manroku
-Kanze Style Noh play
“Kumasaka” Nomura Masaki
What is a Noh?
Noh drama is the oldest surviving form of Japanese theater. It combines music, dance, and acting to communicate Buddhist themes. Often the plot of a Noh play recreates famous scenes from well-known works of Japanese literature such as The Tale of Genji or The Tale of the Heike.
What is Kyogen?
Kyogen is a form of traditional Japanese theater that developed as a sort of intermission and comic relief between the solemn noh acts. The kyogen is very short, so costumes, masks, and props are simple and minimal.
Come celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of the International Plaza.
February 20 marks the 435th anniversary of the Tensho Embassy, a group of 4 boys who traveled from Japan to Rome on a 3,000 day journey!
In the afternoon, there will be a Tensho Adventure for children,
including a stamp rally to learn about the countries the Tensho boys visited, a history corner, Tensho Boy’s costumes for pictures and small presentation by an Omura historian.
In the evening, there will be a presentation on the Tensho Embassy in
Japanese and English and afterwards, an International Exchange Party
including foods from the Tensho Era and drinks.
I hope you all are doing well! Last week I took part in a rare kind of seminar and I am very excited to tell you all about it.
On Monday the 16th I acted as an interpreter for Mr. Fukahori Jouji, an atomic bomb survivor. Mr. Fukahori is 86 years old, so he was 14 when the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
Nagasaki Prefecture puts on Atomic Bomb Survivor Talks (被爆体験講話 – hibaku taiken kouwa) several times a year with a small group of survivors that are willing to talk about their experience. Understandably, not many of the survivors are eager to share their account of that day. In fact, Mr. Fukahori didn’t start talking about his experience until 2009, some 64 years after the incident.
On Monday, he spoke to a group of about 40 exchange students in Kyushu University in Fukuoka Prefecture. The students were from all over the world including places like America, the UK, Germany, and China. He delivered his powerful message in Japanese and I did my best to convey his words and feelings in English to the audience.
I’ll spare you all the harrowing details of his experience, but I want you to know that he survived the attack because he was called in to work that day. At 14 years old, instead of going to school he was ordered to work in a factory that made boat propellers. The factory happened to be in the older part of Nagasaki that was shielded from the explosion by a mountain.
An enormous amount of bravery must be required to recount an experience like he had. His emotion peeked through occasionally during his talk but he did an admirable job of staying composed and delivering his message. I think I was shakier at times than he was, barely holding back my own emotions. As an interpreter, it’s impossible to completely separate yourself from the words and subject matter of your speaker. And if it was difficult for me to relay his descriptions of that day, how much more difficult must it have been for him, who lived through it, to conjure the images that he actually saw, the sounds he actually heard, the smells he actually smelled, to tell it to a group of strangers? I cannot begin to imagine.
I had planned to go to the gym and do some errands once I got back to Nagasaki but instead I curled up with Almas on the couch and watched TV for the rest of the evening. It was a heavy day to deal with. Nagasaki Prefecture and Hiroshima Prefecture are both actively engaged in promoting peace around the world and are some of the loudest proponents of nuclear disarmament. I’m quite proud to be able to help with that work.