koenji_suiren

My Journey as a Flute Player in the Awa Dance Group

Japanese Traditional Dance: Music and Dancers in Sui-ren

event

31 May

The third day of my Taiwan performance tour

We woke up early in the morning and prepared to head to Taipei where the capital of Taiwan is. Before we left, I ate a special morning dish—a kind of rice porridge typically served in Taiwan. It was good for my tired stomach.

On our way to Taipei, the beautiful rural scenery gradually changed into the urban one. I felt like we went to the capital freeway in Tokyo. I saw many tall buildings. There was a stark difference between the rural areas in Taiwan with that of Taipei.

We arrived at the Songshan Chui Temple in Taipei around 1 pm and after a delicious lunch, we prepared for our performance. It was our first performance as one whole group. In Taipei, we finally got reunited with Team A which has been in that area a lot earlier than Team B. It was a big performance—composed of 160 dancers and musicians!

Our performance started at around 3 pm I was delighted to play with my fellow band members because it gave us the opportunity to produce a bigger, more enjoyable sound! The spectators truly warm, welcoming, and just overall excited to watch our performance.

My Taiwan trip was definitely one for the books. But among the things that I experienced while in Taiwan, the greatest for me was to finally see one of my close friends and her daughter again. It’s been a while since I last saw her. She currently works at a Japanese company in Kaoshun and traveled to meet me and see the event!

We had our final performance in front of the Songshan Chui Temple in the evening. The lit-up temple was extremely beautiful! The Taiwanese people welcomed and cheered for us this time, too. I will not forget their warm hospitality.

Before we played, the Mayor of Suginami delivered a heartfelt speech to express gratitude towards the Taiwanese government.
Finally, the performance started with the sound of the flute. I played with my whole heart to show how thankful I was for the Taiwanese people especially for those who supported this event. I felt everyone tried to do their best because it was our final performance there. Afterwards ,we started marching down the big street. Honestly, I enjoy participating in this kind of parade because it allows us to be very close to the audience—so close that I could actually see their face so clearly. Though I enjoyed it, I also felt some loneliness and it was because I knew it was already the end of our trip. It was a comfortable, beautiful, and unforgettable night.


Reflecting upon this experience, I realized a couple of things—first, I should practice playing the flute more often. I think my flute sounded flat and would need a little bit of improvement. It would have been so much better if I could make the tone seem more vibrant and interesting rather than flat. Second, I need to learn Chinese again and talk to more people. I had several Chinese language lessons prior to the trip but it was not enough at all! The next performance tour is going to be on 2021. I have a plenty of time to prepare for it!

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the Songshan Chui Temple

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After the performance

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All Suiren members
23 May

The second day of my Taiwan performance tour

The second day of my Taiwan performance tour

We woke up early in the morning and rode on the bus to head to the middle-west of Taiwan. It was almost a 3-hour drive. I tried to get some sleep in order to save energy.

Prior to arriving at Taiwan, I was feeling worried about the weather. That’s because the weather forecast said it would rain by the time we get there. However, when we were already in Taiwan, it was surprising to see that the weather was extremely beautiful—it was a perfect summer season!

As the saying goes, “nothing is perfect.” The summer season in Taiwan was fine but it also had its downside. There was a day when it was actually too hot to play flute outside, and naturally, I felt so worried about getting sunburned.

When we arrived at Ansei-fu in Unrin Prefecture, we visited a local temple where we prayed for the success of our performance and for a safe trip as well.

While in the temple, I took the opportunity to get a couple of good luck charms—it reminded me of the omamori, however, this one that they have in Taiwan is made of rice. It’s basically a small red bag that contains a few grams of rice. On the outside of the bag, some Chinese characters are printed. It says “peace” and “rice.” In traditional Taiwanese culture, these bags of rice are believed to be a gift from God. Yin-san, the tour guide, explained to me that it is supposed to bring happiness to people. I decided to give them to my parents and my parents-in-law.

Afterward, we were invited to a special lunch prepared by the temple’s officials. Everything they served looked festive—there were so many mouthwatering dishes on the buffet table! They served rice, chicken, pork, fish, vegetables, and soup. They also had bamboo shoots which I loved so much. They were soft and fresh!

By the time I left the dining hall, the people who came to see our performance have already started to gather. Our performance, which was held outside the temple, started around 3 p.m. I noticed that the space they provided for us was too large that I almost missed the sign of the lead dancer. We would change the song based on the lead dancer’s movement and chanting, so sometimes it could be a little difficult to take note of them. After the performance, we marched on the street. I was happy to see that there were so many kids who came to watch us!

We had another performance in the Chao-Tian Temple at night. The Chao-Tian Temple is very much like that of Japanese Ise-Jingu which is the center of people’s belief. This temple’s Goddess is the Chinese sea-goddess Mazu. She became a Goddess after helping her father from a boat disaster. Before we start our performance we prayed to her. Then we paraded towards the temple and had a performance in front of it.

After dinner, we visited the street that we paraded that evening. On that day, April 27th was Mazu’s birthday, so we saw many parades floats there. Many elementary school girls who wore beautiful dress were on the float and tossed us cookies and candies. They sometimes gave us artificial flowers and dolls. The girl who looked really tired strongly threw them, so we had to watch to be safe!. I understand it because the time was already almost midnight. It must be their bedtime already.

I got some snacks and candies and I brought them back as souvenirs for my kids. I enjoyed this parade and it was really a wonderful night to remember!

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With my group members

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The Chao-Tian Temple

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The parades floats

17 May

Taiwan Performance Tour, the first day in Kaoshun

Recently, I went to Taiwan for a 3-day performance tour. It was a cultural exchange program between Taiwan and Japan. The organizer, Koenji-ren-kyoukai, selected 160 dancers and band members. I was lucky enough to be chosen. We were divided into 2 groups and I became a part of “Team B” which traveled from the southern part to the northern part of Taiwan. Our team had 6 flute players—3 of which I’ve already performed with before. I was so happy to get a chance to play with them again!

Coming from Narita Airport in Japan, we arrived at Kaoshun Airport in Taiwan, afternoon of April 26. As soon as we got there, we transferred to a bus and drove to a temple called Ryusei-gu. When we arrived there, a big audience welcomed us. It surprised me a lot.

We held our first performance at Kaoshun. The performance commenced in front of the temple and then from there, we marched on the street as we played our musical instruments. So many Taiwanese locals came to see us and they were all so excited! Honestly, I was feeling nervous at first but gradually, I just felt at ease seeing how ecstatic the people were while they watched us performed. It felt so rewarding. I remember seeing some people taking videos of us using their smartphone. I guess, this way, I could see our performance on Youtube. That would great!

When we back to the temple, we changed our costumes. Afterwards, we got a chance to witness a nice display of fireworks. As a way to welcome us, the Taiwanese organizers set a magnificent fireworks show. It was so close that I felt I could touch them! It was such a wonderful experience for me.

We were invited to a fantastic dinner courtesy of Ryusei-gu Temple officials. They served special Chinese food for us. The dinner was set in a lovely tent outdoors. I could not recognize some of the fish on the plate. Nonetheless, it tasted surprisingly good. It was a great evening and certainly an excellent way to kick off the tour.





10 Nov

"Aki-Za" in Koenji 2018

We joined an “Autumn stage performance.” This stage was held in “Za Koenji” where the theater in Koenji is located and 24 teams performed. Sui-ren’s stage started around 7:30 p.m. Usually it takes time to make a good sound when I start to play, so I reserved a studio for practice before the performnce and it worked. We had enough time, anyway. This helped my tension go away, too.

The music I played was the same as I did this summer stage, “Zomeki” “Zomeki-slow version” “Yoshino-gawa” and “Kohiki-uta.” They are all traditional Japanese songs. The most difficult part for me is “Zomeki-slow version” because it was a solo part for me. I closed my eyes for a short period before I started playing this song and it worked to release some tension. I enjoyed the stage and I feel this is a kind of improvement on my part.

5 Aug

Gota-fes, summer festival in Gotanda

Gota-fes is non traditional dance festival, held every summer in Gotanda, Tokyo.
Sui-ren were invited by organizer to join this festival. It was the first time for the Awa-dance team to join it. It's only a 30-minute performance but I enjoyed a lot!

We gave Awa-dance lessons to visitors.
It was a very hot day but still many people joined it!
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About the writer
Mayuko Kurosaka

She is a member of Sui-ren. She is a flutist. She's been performing for more than 6 years for the group. She was born in Kawagoe an old city in Saitama. She learned to play traditional instrument when she was a young or a kid. She works as a freelance writer.
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