Izumo is known in Japan as the birthplace of myths and legends. It is home to the oldest and most important Shinto shrine in the whole country. Apparently all of the gods throughout the nation gather at the Taisha shrine in Izumo each October. ( I was 3 days late, but better late...)
I have sung in many, many church services, but in this case it was our songs that were actually given as an offering. A very special morning.
We had to wash our hands and lips in order to enter the shrine.
Robert (middle) works for the city of Izumo as an interpreter. He managed to catch the eye of many a choir member...
We were seated and had a sacred tea ceremony. We had sweets first (very sweet) and then a bitter tea (very bitter).
The sweet... a.k.a. sugar cube
Bitter tea... only palatable after the sugar cube.
We then were given vestments to wear, we washed our hands again (no H1N1 here) and were given a thimbleful of holy sake.
We processed in 3 lines to the holy shrine where we gave our offering.
Every 60 years the shrine is renovated -- they showed us some of the techniques used.
A demonstration of the roof construction. It is about a foot thick and made of layer upon layer of a special tree bark held together with bamboo nails.
The high priest was sure that the God of Izumo liked our gift.
It was a national holiday in Japan, so our concert was at 2 in the afternoon. I am sure the 50 or so people who had to stand at the back of the hall (every seat was full) had sore feet by the time it was over as there was a childrens' choir, ladies' choir, mens' choir, plus we sang a whole program, encore and all. We then sang 3 pieces with the large massed choir made up of the citizens. The audience loved it and just clapped and clapped.
After, there was a toast and a photo session. The toast included Koto players and a dance routine from the children. Kind of like a post-concert concert.
We learned how to play the koto.
Speeches were given by our oldest and youngest members.
We were then ushered off to the post-concert concert reception dinner hosted by the Izumo-Canada Friendship Society. They wanted to make us all feel like home so they served us all ceasars, the Canadian drink.
Of course the altos were soon out of control.
And the sopranos were not too far behind.
Well... some of them.
There was a speech from the mayor of Izumo who was not at the concert, but got a text from someone telling him it was very good. (Like a true politician he did not miss the reception.)
That started it. What followed was speech after speech and presentation after presentation. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much.
I think Caitlin said it best when I asked her what she would remember the most about this trip, and she answered, "The people and the hospitality that they have shown us."
I think I agree.