So it has finally begun…
Today was the first official day of the “Okinawa Traditional Karatedo Kobudo World Tournament 2009” held here in Okinawa, Japan.
The whole event will last for four days (13th, 14th, 15th & 16th), and my plan is to keep you updated every single day – pictures, info, videos, quotes and insights.
It will be hard, but I hope I’ll make it!
Today was registrations only, so I don’t have that much interesting to report. I didn’t even videotape anything! But expect that to change tomorrow (demonstrations!) and on Saturday (competitions!). I don’t think you are allowed to film the seminars at Sunday though…
We’ll see about that!
Hmm… I just realized you might be confused if you don’t know the schedule… have a look yourself! I took this photo outside the Okinawan Kenritsu Budokan (Okinawan Prefecural Hall of Martial Arts) where the whole event takes place:
If you don’t have your reading glasses on, this is what the sign says:
August 14th: Opening Ceremony and Demonstrations
August 15th: Competitions, Finals, Award Ceremony
August 16th: Seminars by “Living Cultural Properties”, Seminars by each Ryu-ha and Kai-ha, and Exchange Reception (more commonly known as Sayonara Party!)
So now you know the basic schedule for the coming days. And I’m participating in everything!
But let’s talk about today now.
I arrived at the venue (Budokan) around 11.30 this morning, for the registrations.
Here is what it looked like:
They even sold some t-shirts and stuff:
People from all over the world were preparing for the registration, which would open in about 30 minutes or so, lasting the whole day. “Ooh man, I’m going to stand in line forever!” I thought to myself.
And that’s when I got the brilliant idea of sneaking in through the back door…
First in line.
Here’s the proof (the registration desk):
Sure, I got some elbows in the ribs, but I gave a few back.
As I waited for the registration to begin, I thought about the number of people involved in this giant event. In the pamphlet I read the following statistics:
- 873 participants in the tournament alone.
- 171 participants ranked 5th to 10th dan.
- 43 countries represented.
- 77 different organizations.
- 120 interpreters volunteering…
- and about 6000 people involved in total.
That’s a big machine.
But the strange part is that the whole thing only costs 1000 yen per participant! It’s insanely cheap! My lunch yesterday was more expensive! They could (without exaggerating) easily charge ten times more!
For 1000 yen (currently around 10 dollar or 7 euro) you get to see (and participate) in the demonstrations, you get to see the whole tournament, including finals, and you get to participate in three seminars held by the highest ranked Okinawan Karate (and Kobudo) masters in the world today. If you want to participate in the tournament too (instead of just observing) you just add 2000 yen to that.
They are obviously not doing this for the money. To me it just seems like “symbolic money” – It is essentially free.
Anyway, at 12.00 it was time to register:
It went smoothly…
After paying the fee, and checking some papers, I was sent to another table.
As I looked back, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the people who didn’t know a bout the back door… Here’s a picture of some people waiting to register:
To say it was loud, hot and humid would be an understatement.
Anyway, as I arrived to the next table, two words popped into my head:
I received one, and immediately took the elevator to the third floor to examine its contents.
Let’s have a look:
Two pamphlets (“Okinawan Karate News”). One diploma (where you fill in your name yourself). One catalogue (with discount coupons). One competitor number (to put on the back of the gi). One ID-card (to be worn around the neck). One magazine (“The Okinawan”). One paper (informing about how you can buy the DVD of the demonstration and tournament, which neither I, nor you, will be needing since I film everything).
And finally… one fat programme for the whole event.
But wait… what’s this?!
Something heavy is in the bottom of the bag:
The package reads: “2009 Okinawa Traditional Karatedo World Tournament, Ryukyu AWAMORI”
For those of you that don’t know, Awamori is an Okinawan alcoholic beverage (30% alcohol)! I think putting strong alcohol in everyones goodie bag is a pretty bold move… but I bet the Russians love it!
Anyway, that’s about it for today…
Later, in the afternoon, they had a big meeting for the coaches, that I managed to sneak in to…
Here’s a picture:
It was nothing special, but I spotted some famous faces, including Shimabukuro Zenpo, Nakamoto Masahiro, Shinjo Kyohide, Oshiro Toshihiro, Higa Minoru and a few others… and my Karate sempai Kinjo Sayuri (from the Japanese female kata team)!
She’ll win on Saturday, no doubt about that.
Anyway… I turned my “famous face radar” off, and tried to concentrate on the meeting. But it was like every other Japanese meeting I’ve been to.
Long and repetitive.
And why can they never get a microphone that works?!
So, after two hours of sleeping actively listening, I finally headed home…
Now I’m prepared.
Tomorrow is demonstration-day.