Sunday, April 09, 2006

Japanese Festival 2006 - Houston Texas

Location: Hermann Park
Houston, we have a gorgeous weekend! Japanese Festival this year was held on April 8th and 9th at Hermann Park. With two days of clear sky, lot of sunshine and temperature tops 75, we have a perfect weather to get outside.

I came Saturday to help my teammates set up the tents for our dojo- Houston Budokan. Parking space is full even when it's still early in the morning. Only parking to the museum of fine arts, the one next to Presbyterian church, is available. The festival is mainly located around the pool of reflection: the left side serves food and beverage, the right side is mainly for martial art dojos, main events occurs on stages located right after the pool and in front of McGovern lake. My dojo has two performance sessions from 12 to 1 everyday. Sad to say but I think most of the people there look pretty interested in taiko drum performance by Kaminari taiko group. I myself could feel the magnetic power of the strong but spiritual drum beats.

Kaminari Taiko Group (kudo to the fat guy)

My team has a Judo and Karate-do performance session on Saturday. Then after that is Kendo kata demonstration.

Sensei cregg in blue dress demonstrates with a police officer

Some of the strangle technique. Ouch!

Koge and Mark sensei in Kendo kata

Nazumi - 2nd degree black belt. She's exchange student and is practicing Kendo at our dojo. She's getting ready to get on stage for a match.

It heats up a a lot on Sunday. The stage floor gets so hot that we have to keep our flip-flops on when we are on stage and only take them out when we perform. A couple of enthusiastic youngsters have their feet burned. Things get worse when during Jujitsu demonstration, a horrible accident happens: one of my team-mate hits a sensei in his right eye with the shinai (bamboo sword) sending him off stage and out of the demo. Luckily, it just causes a bruise and everything seems to be fine.

Ben Efting with his katana getting ready for Iaido demo. The sword is "live" (real blade).

One thing I notice in the festival: the Japanese really respects the katana - the long samurai sword as shown above. Their eyes never move away from our swords every time they have to go across us. In addition, they usually make a big circle and go around us to pass instead of walking by our side. I ask my sensei about this and he explains that in Japan, the sword is considered as dangerous as a firearm. Apparently, American people never feel the same way :-).

By the way, I have seen some of my friends purchased katanas for decoration purpose (dull blade) and they usually place the swords wrongly. The correct position should be made so that the blade is curved upward instead of downward. This is to maintain the sharpness of the blade as shown below:

And also, the way one places the hilt (tsuka) makes a significant indication of his/her hospitality! Placing the tsuka on the left side as shown above indicates that the guests are welcome to enter the house anytime they want. Placing it on the opposite side often means watch out for your heads. Why? Because you can easily draw the katana out of the scabbard (saya) if you set the hilt on your right hand! Little detail can change the context completely.

Time for the dual demo:

Brett (left) and I

Nazumi executes a wrist cut.

Phew! A little shade is very much appreciated as we prepare for the next event: carry the shrine around the park.

I wanted to hold the flag but Carlos (the guy in blue standing next to me) got it back when I went to the restroom. What could I do, he is in a higher rank than i am!

Hey Ben, nice fans, pardon us for the portable toilets in the background!

The shrine is right behind us. Made completely in gold (14K i think) and costs about 15 grands. We borrow it (of course) from the Japanese Society of Kendo in Houston.

matching thru isle of food kiots.

After all of that, i finally have my own time to shop around for food. I have about 20 coupons ($1 each) - free for dojo students, and bought another 20 from Ben for 25 cents each. Enough coupons to feed my hungry and growling stomach.

Fresh sushi in this condition? Hard to believe...

After babbling for about 5 minutes trying to explain to those Japanese girls that I like to take picture "with" them, they all gather for me to take a shot withoutt me. I guess they don't understand what I say... Agrigato gozaimasu.

Oh.. Thank you all of my friends for coming over and support us! Specially Sam Sam :-). I love you.

"Some day, when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you...
And the way you look tonight."
Frank Sinatra

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