This guest entry is by Becca Simas, an ALT from America who just finished her tenure in Naze on Amami Oshima island. She kept her own blog, so please check it out! beccamayhem.wordpress.com/
Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, Maranda! I had a lot of fun writing about life as an Amami Oshima ALT for a year, and I am happy you are keeping up the island spirit and doing it too!
I was really excited for my last weekend on Amami because it was our Matsuri! So many people told me I shouldn’t miss it, so I came back after I climbed Fuji for one last hurrah on Amami with everyone before I returned home to America.
On Friday night, Dina dressed Carson, me, and herself in our yukata so we could go walk down to the bridge and watch the fireworks. It was my first time wearing my yukata that Ching forced me to buy in Kyoto. (Hi Ching!)
Left to right: Becca, Carson, Dina
People were saving their spots along the bridge with tarps for weeks leading up to the fireworks, and Seido even reserved us a prime spot. (Thanks, Seido!) Before the fireworks started, I walked around all of the food stalls and ran into a bunch of my students dressed in yukuta too.
Sadly, this is one of the few pictures I took of the fireworks. Because as soon as they started (quite literally) it started POURING. I jinxed everyone when I said “oh, it’s just a little island rainstorm…this will pass in 10 minutes.”
Nope. It continued to pour with no relief. And just like that, the fireworks were canceled, and our yukatas were drenched!
I will admit, I was really bummed I missed the epic fireworks show. I missed it last summer because I hadn’t arrived in Japan yet, but we made the most of it by going out to eat at one of Carson’s favorite places and then singing the rain away at karaoke!
I guess if any night of Matsuri had to be rained out though, I’m glad it was Friday night. Saturday night was hachigatsu odori, where people from all of the different villages on Amami gather and dance in a circle in the middle of the street for two hours straight.
It was incredible to watch so many people come out to celebrate their culture. Everyone’s energy and intensity seemed to increase as the night progressed and they did the same dance over and over again. (This is also probably because of beer and shochu.) Megan was asked to dance in one of the circles and I invited myself too, but the dance was so hard! I never caught on even after going around in a circle for like three times.
Perhaps my favorite part of the night was just before 10 and everyone started their last dance, some of us were pulled into a really rowdy group of dancers. They were throwing water, banging on makeshift drums, and screaming “odori! odori!” I immediately matched their rowdiness and went crazy with them. It was a blast!
Witnessing so many people show their Amami pride made me so grateful to have been a part of this culture for a year, but also a little sad that I would be leaving it all behind on Monday. But I’ll save that story for my own blog….
Rain or shine, I am really glad I stayed for one last weekend.