Pain and Fame

Ultra marathon training has now been in full swing for a couple weeks, and as if that doesn’t already fill my schedule, throw in Japanese lessons every week, nine taiko performances, being filmed by NHK, and the start of a new school year. It’s also cherry blossom season so any free time Aaron and I have had has been dedicated to hiking, flower viewing with friends, reading novels, and reading Attack On Titan in Japanese. We’ve also begun watching Hannibal, so there goes any chance of sound sleep.

Aside from annoying joint pains, our running is going quite well. We haven’t stuck to our original plan one bit, but we’ve still made a lot of progress. Last weekend Aaron and I went out for a 20K run through the roughest part of the course with two of our taiko friends and our neighbor. 10K up and down the two tallest mountains on the 50K part of the course, and then turning around to run it again.

The shrieking muscles and frozen joints are nowhere near pleasant, but the worst part was actually turning around to run the mountains we had just come out of. It felt like an insult.

The second worst part was when I realized my stomach was on empty. And considering my habit of getting light-headed if I haven’t eaten enough, it was  a bit concerning.  I had to stop to walk up the last mountain when it hit, but I managed to run all the flats and downhills until the finish (props to Aaron for being amazing and not leaving me behind).

We also didn’t bring water with us, or salt to replenish what we’d lost, and so someone mentioned that runners sometimes lick their skin for the salt. I got one lick in before Aaron banned me from doing so. It weirded him out.

All in all, Aaron and I ran about 19K and walked probably under 1K. First ever 20K down, and in two hours, forty-five minutes. Ba boom. And we haven’t even lost any toenails yet!

Now hold onto your butts, I’m moving onto taiko.

Over the past four weeks, we performed nine times for something called Haruoki. This is when tourists from all over Japan (usually above 300 years of age. Heh.) come to Oki to watch traditional drumming (that would be us) and a traditional dance called Renge-e- mai,  a dance that  is said to have been preserved since before AD 800. But don’t quote me on that. We performed for about one hundred to two hundred tourists each time, and we were even visited by NHK during one of our practices.

They came in cameras rolling while we were in a warm up drill, and we all suddenly clammed up and clambered ungracefully to a halt. Our leader was, of course, great on camera, but the rest of us scurried as far away from the camera as possible when it wasn’t pointed at us. The minute one of us was selected, we offered them up as sacrifice and scrambled away to a different corner. The result was a kind of awkward shuffle around the practice building between the scary cameramen and the terrified taiko drummers.

Of course, Aaron and I were the second to be singled out because, well, we’re foreign. And obviously so. At least we had warning that they were coming our way as one of the camera men was waving and pointing wildly over in our direction. It said plainly, “Get the foreigners! Our viewers love that stuff!” Aaron and I casually tossed all of our Japanese out the door and charmed them with our awkward, jittery laughs and hysterical glances in every direction but the camera.

When it came to playing for them, we obviously froze up and messed up the beginning of the same song we’d been performing for at least half a year. And when the reporter decided to try to play along with us, they placed her next to me. I am one hundred percent certain they filmed me whacking myself in the head with my drumstick, in what was supposed to be a cool, around the head trick. Instead it looks like I, of my own choosing, simply decided to hit myself in the forehead at that moment, and then continue drumming. I’m struggling to see how they will be able to salvage any good parts with me in it for their broadcast.


Reporter and cameraman. You can even see the giant, looming microphone up top.

Anyway, to be continued.


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