I was invited to participate in the Kanto Festival again! It was another great experience and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
I played the taiko on the second day of the festival. There are many Kanto teams that can participate in the festival. Many are sponsored by big companies such as JAL, Docomo, etc. Our’s was was sponsored by Maruhan, a pachinko parlour. Being part of a team is a big commitment and a big deal as it is apparently hard to join a group. Each group has certain rules, events, etc. My host family joined a new group and everyone was super nice and I was able to make friends with girls my age.
Women typically play the flute and/or play the taiko, while the men balance the large lanterns on bamboo sticks. Boys start when they are super young and get bigger lanterns as they age. It is truly a beautiful and amazing sight to see!
I was only able to play the taiko part that keeps the beat since I did not have time to practice. The other girls welcomed me and two even tried to practice their English with me. Some of the people I met use Instagram so I’m glad I can keep in touch!
Kanto has really shown me the importance of groups in Japanese culture. Everyone helps out to clean and set up, people respect the leaders, and there is group pride. People kept asking me if there were things like this in America and I had to say that I personally haven’t experienced anything like that. There are sports teams of course in the U.S. but I would say this festival is a bit more intense as it is yearly and Kanto is a very important cultural aspect of Akita.
I also greatly improved my Japanese and can really notice a difference finally. I obviously have a long way to go but during the festival I was able to have almost normal conversations without having to ask them to repeat what they say many times. I still wish I could talk about more complex things like politics, current events, etc. instead of just simple things.
I also participated for a second time on the 4th day of the festival. Read on to see what that experience was like…