I am back again with another post, this time hoping to give into a glimpse of how I’ve spent my time outside of work. Before I came to Japan, my online search on the town connected me with a previous JET and we ended up Skyping. During the Skype she told me about the “seinendan” or the Youth Association.
When I arrived in Asagiri one of the first things I did was message the group on their Facebook page. Although that did not get a response, it was passed onto one of my office coworkers who is also a member of of the seinendan or as I call it, the SND. One thing led to another and I was now a member of the joint team which had SND members from Asagiri, Taragi, and Kuma-mura, which are the neighboring towns/villages.
I had seen the different SND groups perform at the local Youth group competition and I was lucky enough that they let me join as long as I could commit to the practices and the national competition in Tokyo.
From the end September to the beginning of November, we had 2 practices a week which were 2 hours from 8 pm, but in the weeks leading up to the event we met more frequently and sometimes even for 3-4 hours. While it was tiring not only physically with the late hours after work, it was also mentally tiring since I met a lot of new people who already knew each other and being thrown into an environment where it was all Japanese language or kuma-ben which is the local dialect. But I cannot complain because it was exactly what I was looking for coming to Japan.
In order to fund the trip the SND also did fundraising. I felt bad because I was only able to help go once, but I couldn’t be much help anyways because I don’t know the area or the people. I never thought I would be driving around the neighborhood trying to sell ramen, but it was cool if not slightly surreal.
Once the weekend of the competition finally rolled around, all the members met at a central location where we would leave our cars and carpool to Kagoshima airport to catch our flight to Tokyo. I feel like the transportation part and the weekend itself passed by in a blur. Not only because it was so short but also because so much of it was just drinking parties at night. Although I don’t really drink, it was still kind of fun to go along with the atmosphere–at least for the first “party.” I always said goodnight before the 2nd or 3rd “parties” because I was already tired.
During one of the dinners it was also really sweet because the girl who kind of adopted me into the Asagiri youth group got me a cake and everyone celebrated. I was really embarrassed, especially because I don’t like attention, but it was sweet because they found out after that my birthday had fallen on a dance practice day and no one knew.
Anyways, back to the competition. The competition itself was more chill than I expected. Although it was hosted in the middle of Tokyo, in a nice venue, hardly anyone came to watch and many of the group members slept through the event in the audience tired and hungover. The dude next to me was snoring so loudly during the puppet show (yes, puppet show) that I wondered if I should wake him up.
For our performance, one of my old friends from my university came and watched but I didn’t get to sneak out to meet her. It was nice to know that someone in the audience was there for me though ❤
In the end, our dance medley, Viva! Seishun or Viva Youth got the 2nd place in the stage division. Members of the join SND also took home awards in the speech competition, singing competition, and arts divisions. I was really happy because I got a medal too, which I took to school the next week to show all the teachers lol. I danced in the “Pokari Sweat Dance,” “Gakuen Tengoku,” and “High School Musical.” Unfortunately, the Pokari Sweat dance was always forgotten and I don’t have a video from that performance, although I do have videos from the dance practices.
Coming home was bittersweet because I knew that I probably wouldn’t be seeing many of the group members anymore now that the practices were over, but I was still so glad that I saw it through. I remember often feeling a bit isolated due to my lack of confidence speaking Japanese or shyness, but in the end it was still really fun. It’s probably one of the things that I will store in my memory box from my time in Asagiri.
I think this is definitely something that was more fun than it may sound so I will just throw some pictures in to try and convey that atmosphere.
Thank you for reading!