Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Caught up

Now that I’m more or less caught up with spring break, I can focus on other things. This year isn’t too bad. I’ve got one of the teachers asking for me to see if there’s an aikido place around Hiratsuka where I could learn. Hopefully enrolling in a course where I’d have to go would make me more likely to go. Rather than dithering about going to the gym because it’s raining and I hate going out in the rain because I can’t ride my bike. I’ve also taken on a couple of things to do in the evening. It’s good money, but I sometimes wonder if I’m stretching myself too thin. Fortunately, they’re not too frequent, so they shouldn’t eat up too much of my free time.

Last weekend Sayaka and I went to Kamakura for the Kamakura Festival. I think the festival is supposed to commemorate one of the rulers from back when Kamakura was the capital of Japan, but the modern festival didn’t get started until the 50s or 60s, probably as a way of drawing tourists, particularly foreigners, down from Tokyo and up from Yokosuka (where the US Navy base is). It certainly worked – I haven’t seen that many foreigners since I met Aaron’s friends and went walking around Akihabara and Shibuya. If I start becoming surprised at seeing westerners, does that make me more Japanese? I hope not.

Anyways, the main reason I went to this festival was to see the yabusame. I’ve mentioned it before, it’s basically Japanese horseback archery. The horses come charging down a path and the archers shoot at targets that, realistically, aren’t that far away. I don’t think ancient Japanese warriors hung around waiting for the archers to get three meters away just so they could get plugged by an arrow. They probably had pikes and things longer than that, come to think about it. It seems to be more ceremonial than anything. The targets are all trussed up with flowers hanging off the sides. It also makes sense to have a closer target, considering the huge crowds of people, as well as the large proportion of foreigners and their propensity for ignoring Japanese rules and wandering about where they don’t belong, like behind the target range.

The horses were fun to watch, and the riders, one in particular, urged their horses on really fast as they flew down the course. We were next to the second target, so we had a good view of them drawing the bow, but we couldn’t see around the barrier to see if they actually hit the target. From what I gathered, only one person missed. It’s pretty impressive that they did so well, especially in comparison to how I’d fare (I can’t even ride a horse), although with targets that close…

Afterwards, we found a little sausage shop and got a couple sausages and a really good Kamakura beer.

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