It seems more and more internationally cruises are stopping at our small city during their trips. This time, we were visited by a Taiwanese ship. We don’t get many giant cruise ships like the one I was on over winter vacation, but they are the biggest most people around here have seen in person. This particular shipped ended up visiting Hyuga twice. Once on their way north and again when they came back south (I think). The first visit took place on a Tuesday evening. Normally, Tuesdays are my one days free and I was reluctant to give that up. However, with my move to the States looming on the horizon, I have been forcing myself to be as active and involved as possible.
After work, training, and a dinner I practically inhaled, I headed back out. I was having a rough week and was not looking forward to being outside late at night, probably getting eaten alive by mosquitos.
Everyone was supposed to meet at the port around 7. But a few hours before the meeting time, a message was sent out asking everyone to come at 6 instead. I arrived at 6:05 and the first thing the president of the taiko group said was, “You’re late!” What I wanted to say was, ‘I’m always early. I’m the only one who comes to practice regularly any more. I came here on my bike. It’s only 5 minutes. Shut up.’ But what came out was a tired smile and, “There’s no one else here!” Which was true. At the moment, the only members of our team were myself and the president. He just laughed as if to say, “You’ve got me there,” and we leaned against the truck for a few minutes while we waited. Eventually, the vice president showed up and the three of us started to unload the truck. Half an hour later, a few other members appeared.
The night was pretty standard as far as our cruise performances go. The president complained he was tired and hungry. Then he made the kids group perform so the adults could take a break. Then the Hyottoko (local) dancers did a performance and the kids had to do another set. Since I was tired of just sitting around, I sometimes jumped into the kids’ set on the Odaiko (giant drum).
At one point, a Taiwanese man came over to one of the taiko team members and tried to explain that he was part of his drumming group back home. Here’s the problem, though: He didn’t speak Japanese and none of the taiko team spoke Mandarin. They ended up communicating in broken English (which neither of them spoke well) and all I could do was grin. This is literally what I’m trying to get my students to understand: Even if you don’t think you’ll need English, there will be weird moments like this where it will be super useful. And even if you don’t like Westerners, English might be your best bet when talking to another Asian whose language you don’t know.
Taiko performances at the port are always long, but interesting. I didn’t get home until around 10:00.
The next week, the same boat stopped by the port again and we had another several-hour-long performances. We don’t play the whole time, but we do play several sets, intermixed with the Hyottoko Dancers and the kids taiko group. I always end up seeing a lot of people I know at the port performances because there are always translators and city-hall workers on hand to help out the visitors. Sometimes they even snap pictures of me (looking ridiculous) in my taiko gear.
I’m definitely going to miss taiko performances after I move. I am still on the fence about whether or not I want to continue taiko in the US or preserve the taiko experience as part of my Japan memories.