After nine months as a Nen Daiko apprentice, I just completed my final evaluation and am now a “Nennie” or a full member of Nen Daiko along with my two fellow apprentices, Jeff & Kevin!
On the day of our final evaluation, it was pouring rain outside. Our next big goal as a group is the Obon Festival on July 11 at our home, Ekoji Temple. To prepare for this event, we sanded the components of our performance stage.
We joked that they were trying to tire out our arms before our evaluations, like the “wax on, wax off” exercise in the Karate Kid movies.
After our evaluations, we celebrated with cake and lots of other treats like spam musubi and custard mochi cake that was being prepared by the amazing chefs in the kitchen to practice for Obon.
To thank Lisa for leading the apprentice teaching program this year, I made her a quilt from Japanese fabrics. The three orange squares represent the three apprentices.
The next day, the rain stopped, so we could paint the stage components outside in the sun.
We also did maintenance on our equipment, such as shining the cymbals or chappa, and painting new rubber paint on the feet of our stands to keep them from sliding.
We finished the painting earlier than we had predicted, so we decided to put together the two stages. The smaller stage is called the yagura. It stands in the middle of the parking lot. All the Obon attendees will dance in a circle around the yagura. A Taiko player will keep the beat or gi up on the yagura. When I attended last year, I loved seeing the Japanese ladies in kimonos leading the dancing so elegantly and cheerfully. I was told “just find a dancing grandma and do whatever she is doing.” It worked!
Since we got that done as well, we decided to put together the very large performance stage. The first step was to lay the components side by side in the correct order. All the pieces are labeled with numbers and letters. We must lay them down in order because the holes for the bolts are drilled in a specific way.
After we lay the squares in the right order, we bolted on the legs and braces. Then we worked as a giant team to flip over each on the three long pieces of the stage. They were extremely heavy but we could lift them when everyone helped.
Once the long pieces were flipped, we moved them into position by laying on our backs and lifting up the stage pieces with our super-strong Taiko legs.
You can see it was a very serious process with no laughing or joking around at all. Actually, I don’t know if I have laughed so much in one day! After nine months of hard work, I think everyone just needed a good laugh. And we apprentices felt like we were truly at home.
After all this, we celebrated with dinner at a new ramen restaurant not far from the temple called Marumen – super yummy!
I still cannot believe how lucky I am to be a part of this group, and to learn so much every week. They have helped me grow so much this year. Most importantly, they regularly help me embrace fear and celebrate life!