For the past who-knows-how-many years the Towada ALTs have played the taiko for the Chuo Community Center Chibiko Koma Odori (children's horse dance) during Aki Matsuri (fall festival). Since my first year it's been the event I look forward to the most during the year.
Apparently next year, though, they won't be doing it anymore. The number of children participating has been declining and starting this year they changed the rules as to what types of floats can be used in the parades, making it difficult for the group. (Up to this year, it was OK to drive floats that use engines, but from this year they stopped allowing that--something to do with float engines not undergoing regular service inspections like regular cars, or so I gather.)
It's really too bad. True, playing taiko for the festival does require a time commitment (there were practices every Mon-Fri from 7:00-8:30pm for about three weeks leading up to the festival), but it's really an awesome experience. In terms of things in Towada I've participated in, taiko for Aki Matsuri for the past three years is definitely my #1 memory.
Apart from playing the taiko, the party afterward is always a lot of fun. The taiko group people are all great people and fun to talk with. It's also a good chance to talk with some other city hall staff from different sections. Since the taiko group didn't have a performance at the party and had to leave early this year, I was able to spend quite a lot of time talking with the Kyoikucho (Superintendent of the Board of Education) and Muranaka-san. Thankfully my Japanese has improved enough that I can carry a basic conversation--although there were a number of times where I had to use English/couldn't answer properly.
(The taiko group had to leave early because there were performing in the main street during the festival. In previous years they performed on the Saturday evening on a float, but thanks to the rule change--no more engines, remember!--they couldn't do that and ended up performing Friday night instead. It was too bad because I always looked forward to their performance at the after party, but it worked out because I left the party in time to catch their last performance in the street.)
Any new ALTs who come into Towada next year really can't know what they're missing. But yeah, I'm glad that I at least got to do taiko for three years. (I heard there was even talk about canceling the Chibiko Koma Odori this year!)
Well, here's to three years of Aki Matsuri taiko! Hopefully they'll find something else for ALTs to join in Aki Matsuri.
First year we all wore the hanten (half coat) (This photo was taken on Allie's camera).
Second year the girls wore the same yukata as the other city hall staff.
This year the girls had the option of wearing hanten or our own yukata. You can probably tell this isn't an ALT photo. (I didn't take one, so I'll have to wait for Kristina to post it on Facebook for me to steal. =P ) The lady on the left is a member of the taiko group as well as a teacher at one of the elementary schools I visit occasionally. The man in the middle is the head of the taiko group. (Also, I'm not wearing it in the picture, but I wore the same "headband" all three years!)
Finally, this has nothing to do with Aki Matsuri, but I forgot to post before about my trip to Goshogowara with the Kirita PTA on August 31st. It was a lot of fun! You can see my photos in my Facebook album here (this year's trip starts from page 2 of the album): http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=151491&id=655150561&l=a57f1a5433