Monday, April 19, 2010

Leif With Yabusame Equipment - Tokyo, Japan - January 10, 1982 - Age 7

We had so many fascinating experiences in Japan, went to so many unusual festivals, visited national parks, hiked in the mountains, went to the beach. Some of them I have no photos of with Leif in them, though he was there.

One of the things we enjoyed doing as a family once in awhile was taking the train to Tokyo to the Harajuku area, where we went to the pizza buffet at Shakey's Pizza. The boys stuck pretty much to pepperoni, but if you wanted to be adventurous, you could try pineapple and corn pizza, or go really exotic and have octopus pizza. It was fun walking around that bustling business area, and then to go to the huge Yoyogi Park nearby. I just posted a photo of Leif riding a bike there not long ago.

What really was fun to watch there, though, were the rock-a-billy clubs and the other young people dressed in a variety of unusual garb, there with boom boxes, dancing and hanging out. The rockers were dressed like 1950s American kids, James Dean, leather motorcycle jackets and pants, jeans, poodle skirts and the like. The guys liked to dress like a young Elvis Presley, and slick up their hair in imitation of his hair or the "ducktails" of the time.

There were also sort of "fantasy" costumes, clowns and what today would be called Punk. There was a lot of dancing going on, and it made for great photo opportunities.

The Meiji Shrine was nearby, and Shibuya wasn't far away. Harajuku had a kind of crepe you could buy that was fun, too.

On January 10, 1982, just 18 days short of Leif's seventh birthday, we went to the Meiji Shrine-Yoyogi Park area for a demonstration or festival of yabusame, a formal style of Japanese archery on horseback. Leif was quite taken with this. The archers wear medieval Japanese costumes and race down a long course, shoot at three targets as they speed by. It's a very impressive and colorful performance, not called a sport but rather a ritual because of it's formal style and prescibed movements as well as Zen religious aspects.

Leif wanted to see the bows, arrows, horses and the men in their costumes up close and he examined them carefully, as was characteristic of anything that interested him. For years after that he was interested in archery. He made toy bows and arrows, bought toy bows and arrows, and when we were in Hawaii, we had a real bow and arrows and I have a photo of him posing with them, wearing some "cool" sunglasses and his "trademark" black leather Members Only jacket. We still had that bow and arrows in Chicago, but somewhere after that they disappeared.

Life in Japan was a very broadening and important period of development for my sons and I think it in many ways influenced the rest of their lives. I know Leif was caught up in the warrior code, the fascination with weaponry, and most of all, the dreams, excitement and social commentary of science fiction.

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