Did I just accidentally join a dance team?

Erika Tsutsumi '14


So I've been in Japan a month already! Maybe I should have posted sooner. Whoops. Anyway, the first month here at ICU has been good. The campus is enormous by Japanese standards, larger than Olin definitely. Large enough that I got lost pretty frequently the first two weeks or so I was here. Olin's tiny campus hasn't done much for my navigational skills. The dorms are pretty large too. I even have a balcony!

Dorm life is interesting here. It's very quiet, everything is very clean, and I'm pretty sure the dorm is secretly a dance team. We have all these beginning-of-year dances newcomers are required to participate in. Earlier this month, we had a performance called the "Bakayama Dances."  The Bakayamas are just little hills on the lawn outside the main academic building on ICU's campus. We wore masks and did a dance with just the newcomers, and then a dance with the whole dorm. The newcomers did this dance (with masks on):


called "Maru Maru Mori Mori." It was some part of a children's TV show I think. Or a news show. You can never really tell with Japanese TV. Then the whole dorm did an adaptation of this:


A dance first performed by a flash mob at Ohio State University- to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" 

And here's a picture of all of us. The masks are Ghibli movie themed- we have characters from My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and more!


Photo Credit: Jaycee Uchida.

I'm in the front row, second from left, holding the big white mask that's meant to be a kodama, a forest spirit from Princess Mononoke.

And yesterday, we finished our second performance- for an event called "Engeikai." For engeikai, all newcomers (freshman and exchange students) have to act and/or dance in a play that the sophomores write. I'm still not totally sure what ours was about, because the Japanese was a little bit above my level, and the characters all spoke very fast in high pitched voices, which made it even harder to understand.

I do know the characters were based on the children's show Anpanman, which is about a superhero made of anpan, a bread filled with sweet red beans. For reference, this is Anpanman.


Anyway, we practiced A LOT- we had a nearly 10 hour engeikai practice on Sunday alone (I was there for maybe 6 hours - I had a really small part, but still had to be there for forever). I was irritated, to be honest, but it's how it is here. There's quite a bit of pressure to make this kind of event absolutely spectacular. My dorm in particular is really intense about it; they've apparently had the best play every year for about 8 years running.

It was a very uniquely Japanese experience though, and kind of cool in that regard. We all wore crazy costumes and TONS of makeup- kind of based on traditional makeup, with very white faces and exaggerated colors. But it ended up getting pretty ridiculous. Like, I had the word "god" written in huge letters on my forehead in liquid eyeliner.  

There were four of us (who had very minor roles) that had either "god" or "kami" (Japanese gods/spirits) written on our faces. I don't actually know if that was relevant to the story or not, but here's a picture. 

Engeikai 4.jpg

Photo credit: Yoshino Kaneko

I'm on the far right. We were all supposed to be wearing white dresses, but I didn't have one, so I improvised. And then we all ended up performing in togas.

And here's the whole cast!

Engekai cast.jpg

Photo Credit: Yoshino Kaneko


I have actually done other things here in Japan, I swear. Things that involved no choreographed dancing, crazy makeup, or costumes. But for now, I think this is enough for one blog post.  


Posted in: Class of 2014