I recently went to my first Japanese traditional “odori” dance performance.
The performance was held at Aki Grand Hotel (安芸グランドホテル) . Right next to the hotel sits the dormitory for Hiroshima’s popular baseball team, the Carp (no ‘s’). A big crowd stayed gathered there the whole time my friend and I were at the odori event, waiting to see Carp members if they should happen to come out of the dorm. It would’ve been cool to see a player from the team (not that I would recognize anyone without a uniform), but alas, it was not to be.
The hotel allows shoes, but the dance was performed in a special room with tatami mats, so everyone had to take off their shoes at the door and put on indoor slippers.
While we watched the initial performances, we were given tea and momiji manju! I’ve had momiji manju a number of times, because it’s the famous local snack, but I think these were a special, nicer version. When I gave some to my Japanese friend later, she said she’d never seen that kind before.
After the main acts were done, the hotel staff asked us to all leave the room for a bit while they moved all the tables into a U formation and served up all our food.
Even though the friend who invited me knew a lady in the performance, I think we were both shocked by the sheer amount of food and how nice it was. This was only the first course–as we finished our plates, the servers in kimonos would come and bring us even more. My friend and I had to order ginger ale to help us digest it all and keep eating. I definitely would’ve eaten a lighter breakfast and not snacked if I’d known this was coming, haha–but I couldn’t just leave it and stop early, because it was really high-quality food.
I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to travel as a JET, “because you’re in Japan,” or “because you’re young,” or something, but I think it’s good to remember that there’s so much to see and experience in the area where you live, without even having to go that far.
Later on, there was a “free karaoke” segment of the program, where people could come up and sing while reading the lyrics off a TV screen, and a man went up and sang a song in English because I was there (I think I might’ve been an unusual guest, haha). Then everyone started encouraging me to sing a song, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to sing because all I know are more recent songs, and so I sent up a quick prayer, and ended up spotting “Amazing Grace” in the karaoke book (in English) and singing to that. “Amazing Grace” is apparently a well-known song in Japan (I don’t know what the Japanese lyrics are, though), so it worked out well. I’d forgotten that I know some hymns!
I think sometimes when you’re in another country teaching, you feel like you have to travel all the time to get the most out of your free time, but sometimes there are lots of cool things to experience right where you are. I’d been by this hotel on the train and in the car multiple times, and never even knew there were dance performances going on inside of it!