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festival time

August 3, 2004


I’ve been having far too much fun the last few days. On Friday night my friend Y-san and his band gave a concert of Okinawan music on the beach for a bunch of kids who were visiting the island. I went along to watch, but at the beginning of the concert Y introduced me and said I was going to play a song too, which was the first I’d heard of that. I decided to play Spencer the Rover, an old British folk song. Before playing it, I was a bit pleased with myself because I managed to explain the gist of in Japanese (“this song is about travelling, and about how when you come back home it feels good”). After the concert I camped out on the beach with Y. On Saturday night, one of the villages on the island had a festival whose highlight was a tug-of-war with a hundred-metre-long rope. Everything went a bit Wicker Man – flaming torches, drunken dancing, chanting. After the festival, I walked nearly halfway round the island back to the beach, to camp again.

On Sunday the low tide was especially low, because of the full moon, meaning that the sea was ankle-deep for the fifty or so metres out to the reef, so Y and I took our fins and snorkels and walked out there. Y was collecting shellfish, I was just swimming around looking at all the brightly-coloured fish. The edge of the reef is like a cliff: it drops off to the seabed, about twenty metres or so below. As soon as you go into the water it’s like being on another planet – flying along gullies and canyons, into wide-open spaces, with more gullies leading off in all directions, and everywhere fish of crazy colours and shapes. The best fish I saw were a big, psychedelic-patterned yellow one, and a very large poisonous Lion Fish (ミノカサゴ).

Yesterday there was another festival – this time in the village that I live in. More crazy-dancing, more tug-of-warring, and I made my ill-advised (and painfully brief) sumo debut, against a man of about twice my weight. Ouch. Still, at least I won two bags of rice.

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