Between August 13th and August 15th the Japanese celebrate the Buddhist festival of Obon. They believe the spirits of their dead ancestors return to the land of the living and visit their family shrines. On the first day of the festival I went to a Buddhist temple to see some traditional music. The atmosphere was magical- a starry night; the smell of incense; crickets chirping; everything lit by hundreds of candles. The music was beautiful, evoking Japan’s history in its melody as it swept through the balmy night. The picture is of a lady playing the Koto. I would love to try and learn a traditional musical instrument but the Koto looks hard- like a complicated harp.
The concert also confirmed us as minor local celebrities, the only foreigners in town. The mayor arrived at one point, a jolly man with a big laugh. He already knew us all by name and we had a bit of a talk with him, which was a little surreal- I have never met a mayor before. Then, from nowhere, in an interlude between songs, the announcer suddenly called out “James”. This confused me a little and I looked around expectantly for another James somewhere, until it dawned on me that James is not a Japanese name and that I was going to have to go up on stage. I stood there with a confused look, not knowing wat to do, whilst the announcer talked to me for a while in Japanese. In the end I decided that she must have been asking me what I thought of the music and I managed to stumble out “li desu yo”, which just means good, and escaped back to my seat as fast as I could.