In early July, Betz Ratch, an experienced square dancer, and Anne Christie, who had just completed her first season with the Williams Lake Square Dance Club, were invited to attend a square dance jamboree in Japan.
They were met at the Narita airport by Betz’s friend Kazuto who took them to the Shimura Square Dance Party in Tokyo the next day.
At this dance the callers were all Japanese and although square dance calls are always in English throughout the world, some were much easier to understand than others.
After the dance there was a fun evening at an Izakaya (Japanese pub-style eatery) where all sat on the floor on tatami mats and sampled many new foods including lotus root and skate fin.
After touring Tokyo, Anne and Betz travelled to Nakano and stayed with Kazuto and family. His house has been the ancestral family home for 160 years and is a traditional style with a thick thatched roof.
Anne and Betz enjoyed seeing the snow monkeys cavorting in hot springs and Matsumoto Castle.
Returning to the dance scene, Anne and Betz attended the 35th Nagano Apple Squares Shiga Summer Jamboree. It was north of Nagano, the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Betz enjoyed visiting with Nagano Apple Square members who she had met on a previous visit.
This was Anne’s first visit to Japan, and because she had only been dancing for one year so she was nervous at first. However, she found everyone very helpful and accommodating.
“We loved seeing all the colourful and creative dance outfits, and admired the graceful round dancers,” Anne and Betz commented.
“Square Dance caller, Jerry Story, from Iowa, and Mac O’Jima, from Sendai Japan, and other guest callers were lively and fun.”
They also said a favourite highlight of the trip was participating in a ceremonial lighting of a campfire followed by singing, folk dancing, square dancing, fireworks and sparklers.
“It was truly magical!” they said.
The remainder of their visit was spent in Kyoto enjoying a festival and parade and touring many historic temples, shrines and beautiful gardens. One day was spent in Nara and the giant Buddha was much admired.
Back home in Williams Lake, Anne and Betz commented: “We found the Japanese to be extremely gracious and hospitable and they were constantly taking our picture, giving us gifts and buying our meals. They also stopped to help if we looked lost, which was a good thing because we did take the wrong train on our fourth day, and travelled an hour in the wrong direction! “
Square dancing is definitely a good way to have fun, and meet lots of people.
Anne and Betz encourage Williams Lake residents to join the fun and try today’s style of square dancing. For more information, videos, and a poster, check out the Williams Lake Square Dance web site at http://www.wmslk.squaredance.bc.ca or phone 250-392-2432.