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Monday, April 26, 2010

Demonic (but friendly) drummers

In the central Taiwanese town of San'i  三義 there is a resort called West Lake Resortopia. You won't find it listed in any of the English-language guidebooks on Taiwan (there aren't that many to begin with), and for good reason - it wouldn't be of much interest to the average Western visitor in Taiwan, unless he/she wants to see what Asian European fantasies look like ("Versailles" rose gardens, "Dutch" wooden houses and so on). Except, however, when the resort plays host to Ondekoza 鬼太鼓座, a Japanese taiko 和太鼓 drumming troupe based in Fuji 富士市, Shizuoka Prefecture 静岡県. Pamela and I are both big fans of kumi-daiko 組太鼓, and we have an Ondekoza DVD, so naturally this was an opportunity that couldn't be passed up.

The group is performing at West Lake Resortopia as part of an annual festival centered around the blooming of the San'i area's Tung trees 油桐, so we knew today would be crowded. As a result, we were up at six this morning, and arrived at the resort shortly after nine. Good thing, too, as Amber was able to ride on the merry-go-round and a couple of kiddie trains without having to wait in interminably long lines. We were also able to find a space on the lawn right in front of the stage, with great views of Ondekoza as they performed their first show of the day at ten:

It wasn't all drums, flutes and cymbals. One member showed off some juggling skills involving a traditional Japanese toy called a kendama けん玉:

The highlight of the show, of course, was the Ōdaiko 大太鼓 solo...:

...a segment of which I recorded:

After the performance, Pamela bought a T-shirt, then we went backstage to have it autographed by a couple of the members, followed by some photos:

We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon walking around the resort. One of the stranger sights we encountered was this torii 鳥居:

It led past a chōzuya 手水舎, a Shintō shrine 神社 wash basin, to an artificial cave filled with statues of Kuanyin 觀世音菩薩, the Buddhist goddess of mercy.

There were Tung trees in bloom, but not as many as I'd expected:

For Amber, the highlights were the long slide and the obstacle course:

It took a while to get out of the parking lot and on the road back home (two words for the management of West Lake Resortopia to consider for next year: traffic control), but it was a fun day out for the three of us.

On a completely unrelated note, a brief Kyōdō News 共同通信社 article appeared in Sunday's Japan Today ("Taiwan arrests customs official over smuggling of Japanese beef"):

"A Taiwan customs official is in custody after allegedly covering up the smuggling of high-grade beef from Japan into Taiwan in defiance of a mad cow disease ban...Tang Lung-sheng, a section head at the T'aipei 台北 Customs Office, is alleged to have protected the smuggling operation that brought in more than 5,000 kilograms of Matsusaka beef 松阪牛 over more than a year. After intercepting the latest shipment Wednesday, prosecutors alleged that frozen meat importer Chang Shih-chun, 52, and others carried the beef in personal luggage on a weekly basis and that Tang ensured they passed through customs smoothly. Chang would then sell the beef to restaurants at more than twice the price he paid in Japan, prosecutors said. Health and agricultural officials are now attempting to determine where the beef was sold, officials said. Tang denied involvement in the operation, according to media reports, but he was detained as investigators looked for evidence of accomplices among his colleagues..."

Will there be an underground market for American cow tongues?

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