All of Iwate is coming together to bring about the ILC. This summer saw a number of events, from a huge seminar hosted by the Iwate ILC Promotion Council on July 2nd, and a number of small events and panels where local mayors gave their ideas about the project. Most exciting was the creation of an ILC team to participate in Iwate’s largest summer festival.
Every summer, Morioka City in Iwate comes alive for a 4-day drum festival extravaganza known as ‘Sansa Odori,’ or the Sansa Dance. As night descends on the city, people dressed in summer kimono and elaborate hairstyles fill the streets to watch thousands march to the beat of the drum. “Sansa-sa! Sansa-sa!” the cries fill the air with a backdrop of flutes, drums, and gongs. “Hara hara hara-se!” Spectators feast on yakisoba and beer as they enjoy the cool twilight air. “Sakkora Choiwayasse!” The festival celebrates the defeat of an evil demon who tormented the town centuries ago, and the mood feels triumphant even today.
This is the atmosphere of a traditional Japanese festival. If the ILC is realized in Iwate, then scientists and researchers from all over the world will be able to see this festival and more every year. Adventurous residents will even be able to become part of these festivals themselves. That’s what’s wonderful about living in Japan: you get an opportunity to take part in traditions with hundreds or even thousands of years of history.
So – thousands of spectators all in one spot? What a fantastic opportunity to talk to people about the ILC project! The ILC Promotion Office of the Iwate Prefectural Government set up a team for the festival, ordering almost 1,000 plastic-fans to hand out to festival-goers on the streets. Wearing blue and purple happi coats emblazoned with the ILC, they marched with huge banners that said “Bring the ILC to Iwate! Bring the ILC to Tohoku!” Local foreign residents involved with the ILC Support Committee marched right along with them, greeting festival-goers.
ISC Member Dean Ruetzler said, “I have participated in Sansa Odori a few times before, but nothing before matched the crowd’s reaction to the ILC. A mixture of anticipation, excitement, and hope was what I saw in their eyes. I truly believe that when all is said and done, a majority of Iwate citizens are in favor of the ILC coming to the prefecture.”
Jun Sasaki, executive director of the ILC Promotion Office, had this to say about the event. “Japanese festivals are a great time for both young and old, and Sansa is the biggest drum parade in the world, officially recognized by Guinness. By creating an ILC team we were able to spread awareness of the ILC project to a huge amount of people. We had almost 1,000 fans that were handed out in just 10 minutes! Moreover, by inviting members of the ILC Support Committee, we’re showing that it’s a very important initiative to involve our foreign residents in Japanese culture and community development. It gave the local people an opportunity to interact with their foreign neighbors. I feel strongly that we are coming together as ‘one world’ for the ILC.”
One staff member from Ichinoseki even dressed up as the concept of dark matter. Yes, dark matter. It turns out ‘dark matter’ was just some tall guy wearing black spandex. I’m as surprised as you are!
And there I was, covered head to toe in a traditional Sansa yukata (summer kimono) and taiko drum. Every year I’ve participated in the festival with a drum hoisted on my shoulders, and every year I have more and more fun. It’s hot, it’s exhausting, but nothing beats taking part in something that brings so much joy. Some years the International Association’s put out their own teams, with foreign residents dressed up in their own cultural dress, in Japanese yukata, or even in regular shorts and t-shirts. All are welcome at this, the biggest taiko drum festival in the world. And someday, the world will be participating in Iwate’s customs as well.
Learn how to Sansa!
Once you’re here, you could learn how to drum the taiko, play the flute, or dance. Dances can be learned in a week or two (this is coming from someone with zero rhythm or musical aptitude, so it could take you much less time!). This could be our ILC team in the future…