What a fun-filled weekend, and it’s not even over yet!
This weekend Newport held its Black Ships Festival. Not knowing anything about it, I was all excited, thinking I was going to see the tall ships that Poolie holds so dear to her heart. But then I visited the website and learned that it’s not quite about ships.
See, back in the mid-1800s, Japan was a very isolated country. It really didn’t want anything to do with anyone else and only traded with the Chinese and the Dutch. It had been that way since the mid-1600s, and in fact, no one was allowed to leave or enter the country upon pain of death! But then the US sent Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan in 1853, hoping to open trade relations with the secluded nation. Perry’s ships were coal-driven, and the black smoke issuing from them helped name them the Black Ships. Perry was ultimately successful in signing a trade agreement with Japan, and it wasn’t long before Japan reconsidered its policy of seclusion and decided to join the rest of the world in trade.
Newport celebrates the opening of trade between Japan and America with the Black Ships Festival. To that end, the festival features a lot of Japanese culture, food, and music. It sounded like something right up my alley!
Saturday dawned hot and muggy. In fact, my Accuweather homepage tells me it reached 96º yesterday. It was so hot and humid that our friends, A and D, had considered only going to the one show we’d paid for, instead of spending the day at the festival as originally planned. Part of it was they were worried about me, being seven and a half months pregnant!
But we all piled in the minivan and headed down to Newport about 3pm yesterday.
Now, if you know a festival in your town that is an ongoing thing (in fact, this year was the 25th anniversary of the festival), wouldn’t you assume that there would be plenty going on all day long on Saturday? I’m accustomed to things shutting down early on a Sunday; the festival planners usually have to go back to their real jobs on Monday! However, most everything was already finished with by the time we go to the festival at 3pm. Activities were really only going on between 10am and 2pm, with a four-hour break before the drumming started.
That makes no sense to me, but whatever.
So we basically just walked around downtown Newport. It’d been a while since we were there; we townies tend to stay as far away from Newport, and the massive crowds, as possible. Even with the heat, we still enjoyed ourselves. D let me know that if the baby needed some ice cream, she would make that sacrifice and have some with us. What a friend!! I really like D. She’s so funny and sweet, plus she is incredibly easy to talk to. And yes, we did get some ice cream! At Ben & Jerry’s, no less. It really hit the spot, too.
While wandering around aimlessly, we managed to happen upon a Greek festival. So we went from Japan to Greece, all within about a city block! D was especially excited, as she is of Greek ancestry. There was some really delicious food to be had, but most of it had nuts, so we decided to pass. It all smelled delicious, though.
By that time, we needed to go back to the Black Ships Festival to check out the taiko drumming. Now that, my friends, was incredibly amazing.
But first things first. The man who introduced the taiko drummers was actually someone rather famous in his own right — Manny Yarbrough, the world’s largest athlete, as according to the Guinness Book of World Records. He’s a sumo wrestler, and the newspaper reported him as 6’8″ and 713lbs. He is certainly a large man! He also possesses a voice that is smoother than silk, deeper than deep, as rich as dark chocolate. Once his athletic career is over, I hope he finds something in voiceover work because it would be a shame to waste such a lovely, lovely voice.
Set up along the stage were about a half-dozen large drums. For some songs, they were used sideways, with drummers hitting both sides of the drum, and for other songs, the drums were set on their ends so that the drummers used only the tops. But the drummers didn’t stay with their drums. Taiko drumming includes a lot of movement. The drummers would dance between the drums, going from one to the next, or they would simply stretch and hit one drum on the first beat and another drum on the very next one. All the movements of the drummers was incredibly choreographed, and they were executed all in unison. Add to that the sheer volume of the drums, and it was an amazing experience.
I took some video of the drumming; you can see it HERE, though the quality of the video isn’t anything to write home about. My camera didn’t like the bright lights on the stage, and as the sun set, there was even more light thrown onto the performers. It was just too much for my poor camera’s sensor to handle. But you get the idea of how amazing these drummers really are.
What was the most shocking of all was the drummers performed for two hours!! I had no idea it was that long; it certainly did not seem like two hours had passed as we soaked up the drumming.
To cap off such a lovely day in the sun, we all decided it was time to head to our favorite sushi joint for some good Japanese food. A and D’s friends had run into us at the drumming, so we invited them along. They’d already had dinner, but they graciously accepted and had a bite to eat with us. And you know, that’s the best kind of dinner. Conversation flowed so evenly between the three couples, and the food was really delicious. Even Grace behaved fairly well, though we didn’t get to the restaurant till 8pm — her normal bedtime! It wasn’t till we started home around 10pm that she really got whiny, but you can’t blame her after all the sun and excitement of the day.
All I wanted to do was collapse into bed once we got home. And tonight promises to be a late one as well, since I have more plans! What a busy girl I’m turning out to be!!