i'm back and fresh from my trip to the Japan Juggling Festival 2006!
It was 3 days full of workshops and stunning (very stunning) performances.
400+ jugglers from all over Japan (and 1 from HK, 1 from Korea and 2 from Singapore) came together at Tokyo and magic happened. The top Japanese jugglers are truly world class, and they have masters in almost every prop (diabolo, devil sticks, cigar boxes, rings, balls, you name it, they have it).
Their performance style is different from the usual Western style, so it's very refreshing and adds on to the wow factor.
Perhaps next year, more of us can go together! and maybe one day, we too will join the juggling performance competition!
For further review of the JJF 06, here're relevant excerpts from my blog entry:
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Japan Juggling Festival
of all the places that juggling has taken me, i would have never expected it to bring me to a place where people share baths and where jugglers from 3 different countries can have a good chatty meal together without speaking a word of another's language.
more on that later.
so after MJ and I finally got to Narita, it was off to figuring out how to get on Tokyo's famous ultra-confusing train system.
their train map looks like a plate of spaghetti.
and my god, their shinjuku underground train station is like a maze. Just searching for the east exit from the west exit is an adventure in itself. you find yourself in strange corners and dead ends that end abruptly. (we gave up and finally went above ground to walk round the building)
but we finally found our way to the Tokyo National Youth Olympic Centre, where the JJF was held.
We barely introduced ourselves when we were ushered off to the theatre to watch the first performance of the festival, put up by all the past JJF champions.
it was an incredible performance.
time and time again i got wowed and more wowed and even more wowed.
like everything else, the Japanese are top class.
Shindo kicked off the night with a rubber faced comic performance that hardly diminished his technical ball skills. And then there was some slick devil stick, cigar box and diabolo performances. And a guy with amazing balance skills. pure wonder, the way he stretched the laws of physics by balancing the club in every conceivable manner.
then there were the piroutte experts, guys with ball bearings as feet. there was a young guy and another older one whom MJ calls the "zen master" because he looks so much like one. i don't even think ballerinas can spin so fast.
the Kikyo brothers, as usual, stunning in their club control.
the ones that most captivate me are the ring and poi performances. The poi piece was magic in motion. it really was. he did a glow routine in the 2nd half, and that alone was worth the trip to Japan.
The ring routine was well choreographed and he looked almost like a king fu master in action. I think the soundtrack for both pieces were well chosen too, probably the reason i was captivated.
it was a wonderful night and a great kick off to the festival. i only wished they do this every year, and more of my fellow singaporean jugglers were there to see it.
The Japanese jugglers choreograph their pieces well, and their styles are different from the western styles, so it's a breath of fresh air from all the western video diet we've been feeding on. besides how obviously skillful they are and how beautifully and artfully they present their stuff, another thing i noticed is how varied they are. Every performer on stage that night presented a different prop at a high level. This is something that is severely lacking on the local scene. Golly, we don't even do rings!
it was only a 3 day festival, so things were quite packed together.
almost everything in this trip was pretty hectic i must say.
the workshops start at 9am till noon.
and then there were performances/shows at 2pm to 5pm.
the gym closes at 10pm so no overnight juggling there.
it was all good though.
didn't juggle as much as i'd like, cos i was too busy observing and taping stuff. but i think i learnt quite a fair bit. now it's just putting them into practice.
on the 2nd day it was the competitions.
watching the excalibur still gives me goosebumps. with the right music and lighting, the excalibur can be the most beautiful thing in juggling.
there was only one lady in the whole competition (hopefully, just maybe, that will change one day)
she did a devilstick routine, and even though there're other more technical stickers out there, i thought her routine and song choice was very sincere and heartwarming. perhaps, a female touch that only female performers can give.
Tempei did a club and devil stick routine. he's a true all rounder. i think the diabolo is his strongest prop and even then his clubs and devil stick are competition standard.
There was also a guy who won special achievement i think. he had an interesting cool costume and a contact routine.
on the final day, Tomas Dietz, Marcus faulkner and Peter Gerber presented their routines. Marcus Faulkner's routine was almost flawless and wow (perhaps because i'm not well versed in devil stick) and truly deserved the standing ovation.
there was also a traditional Japanese performance group which was very endearing. and very different.
and so that was the end of JJF 2006.
another festival off my checklist.
i might go again, simply because the standard is world class and it's cheaper than IJA or BJC.
learning Japanese will help though, a lot.
i'm more scared of sashimi now than ever,
but other than that Japan has endeared me.
The people are courteous and polite (especially at the JJF, where pple really do greet each other along corridors) and they are highly original and they embrace it (make a trip down Harajuku, my favourite place).
I'll put up photos and videos when i can.
now it's back to the hustle and bustle of life.
it's been far from a restful trip.
but in many other ways, it has recharged a lot of my other mental batteries.
Did i mention, among other things, i spent a fortune buying EIGHTEEN juggling balls?
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