I joined the biggest juggling event in Japan called JJF2018 (Japan Juggling Festival) in Tokyo from 6th-8th October.
JJF celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and it took place at the Youth Education National Olympics Memorial Center where has been already used many times in previous years as the venue.
In JJF, many workshops and shows are happening at the same time, so I cannot cover all of them here, but here I review events that I joined, and I will also write what I felt during the event.
It began with the opening ceremony at 10:30. The guest jugglers and the organizers made a speech, took some photos for the official magazine of Japan Juggling Association “Shall We Juggle?”. A lot of jugglers from all over Japan were already arriving, and I could sense so much anticipation!
PM Juggling put a booth this year again. Many people came and tried our props. Thank you all for coming!
Our aim is to provide a space where you can “play with joy”, a space where a prop and another prop get connected, and a prop and people get connected.
We also exhibited N Russian balls and Mag-sticks produced by Kouta Ohashi. (You can order them via “Kouta’s Store”) The props drew much attention, and there were many people who told they had wanted to try them.
We also introduced hand-crafted rings, boxes and balls by Akira Miyano. The rings were the ones used in his performance at the event “Himitsukichi (Secret base)” in Kyoto some months ago. It seemed like everyone who tried them was amazed by the beauty of the carefully-made props. PM Juggling is planning to cope with Akira to make more and more interesting props like these.
Emil Dahl from Sweden also came to us and played with our thin 1mm PM rings, balancing them on his head. By the way, the rings he currently uses are made by an American company called Cathedral. Some people seems like they misunderstood it, but no, they were not PM rings although they look alike. But Cathedral seems to be one of those “small but unique” companies, so that interests me a lot too.
There were a lot of workshops happening.
On the first day, I attended a workshop called “Juggling prop makers’ gathering” which was organized by Kizoharu (photo above) who creates his own original cigarboxes called “Kizohako” (Hako means a box in Japanese) and many other original props.
In the workshop, first each participant introduced the original prop he/she was developing, then we talked and discussed all the props. There were approximately 20 participants there. I introduced a shape-changeable transparent tube with wire inserted inside, and beanbags not sawn but “covered” with many pieces of cloth.
There were many people who were keen to create props. It was such a meaningful event even just for that reason. I’d like to thank Kizoharu who organized it.
I think this was also a good opportunity to discuss other things, such as juggling scene in general, jugglers who use the props etc. Juggling props and people are in a very intimate relationship, so it would be a nice thing to share stories and develop a discussion.
In the seminar room used for the workshop, there were some photos on the wall that got awards in “Photo Jug!” contest. It is a contest organized by Juggling Story Project, a company that aims to. Taking pictures of juggling is a growing concept in Japan as well as making original props.
The biggest and most anticipated event of the day, is the championships. It was held in a big theater near the gym.
The theater was full of excited audience. For those who could not have bought the tickets to enter the theater, there was also a viewing hall with a screen. On Youtube, they livestreamed all the performances as well. You can still watch the recorded video here.
About the Championships this year, you can get more info about it here.
The Gold medal winner was Kaito Tanioka, who I met in the Korea Juggling Festival in 2015 (He was one of the guests there with his brother Kento). When I first met him, he was very young but I was surprised to see how much he has grown up. The organizers of the Korea Juggling Festival were also there to watch his performance, and they looked also happy.
I also have to mention that personally I was moved by Takashi Ichikawa’s performance. It’s been already more than 10 years, but we used to practice together when I was a university student, and now he is using balls that I made. It was very exciting to see him perform on stage with PM balls.
After the championships it’s time to go for a drink.
The second day
The following day, I joined 2 workshops, which were “How to live with juggling”, and “EJC 2018 Report” organized by Naoya Aoki, the chief editor of juggling magazine PONTE.
“How to live with juggling” was hosted by, Naoya Aoki and Mimizu Nakanishi. Mimizu organizes juggling unit called Pintcle in Kyoto. In the form of a discussion, we talked how to have a relationship with juggling in one’s life, without actually “juggling”.
In Japan, university juggling clubs are playing a central role in the scene. But on the other hand, it is also true that not a small number of people quit juggling after graduating. With that said, the main topic here was how we can still somehow connected to juggling no matter what happens in life. For example, Naoto Miyata, who leads a juggling & theater company Fratres made some comparison between theater and juggling scene.
In this blog, once I have tried to describe my perception of the relationship with juggling.
Either it to be the music, cooking, language, or traveling, if you combine something you are good at with juggling, it enables you to enjoy juggling for your entire life, and I believe that it broadens the world of juggling in general after all too. Rather, the more you grow and learn more things, the wider and more enjoyable juggling will be. That is my belief.
In addition to that, however, I’m also gradually getting interested into people who are determined to live only with juggling, or for juggling per se. I think both types of people are important who keep the mind open, and who really focus on juggling.
What I found very interesting was that how they choose to be involved in juggling actually tells what kind of person they are.
Back to the main gym, I visited a booth run by my friend Takuya Suzuki “Omochagakki.com.” (toy music instrument)
Takuya is a highly skilled juggler first of all, but not only that, he makes his own props, also he performs statue, and currently he is working on his toy music instrument project. He is truly a multi-talented person.
He helped PM Juggling a lot when I started, accepting to appear in the very first promotion online video. Back then, nobody knew about me, so if it were not for that video and him, PM Juggling as it is now didn’t exist at all.
He imports these instruments by himself. Maracas made of gourd that you see above are produced by him. All the instruments were fun to play with, and I hope juggling props also to be like this.
In the main hall, endurance was going on. It seems like there were more audience and participants than before. Sheer number of people throwing objects at the same time simply makes a beautiful picture.
To conclude the day’s activity, we had toss up. Various props that you see in this picture might tell you how diverse the juggling scene in Japan is.
After this we headed to see the guest stage. For this year, they invited White Asparagus (Ball), Tetsundo Kumamoto (Devilstick), Hisashi Watanabe (Ball), and Emil Dahl (Ring). It was a pure joy as a juggler to see their performances.
I went to a ring balance workshop by Emil Dahl.
He introduced ring trapping techniques, mixed with some balance. His advice was very clear and useful, but when it comes to doing it by myself, it was so hard that I came to appreciate his juggling way much more.
Again, a workshop by Naoya Aoki “Professional jugglers in Europe”. Having Hisashi Watanabe as a guest speaker, mainly he and his partner Sakurako Gibo shared what they experienced as a company “Atama to Kuchi” in Europe.
It first began with the story how he started to attract much attention in Europe, then he explained how the European professional circus scene works. He also mentioned how it differs from country to country, and what kind of roles we as Japanese jugglers could especially play in the market.
Even though I didn’t have a desire to be professional in Europe, his talk was very inspiring. The entire talk was almost like a cultural study along with juggling.
We PM Juggling often get orders from overseas. The workshop broadened my imagination towards other countries, and it was exciting to know more about the countries that I ship our products to. It made me want to go there again as well.
There was not much happening on the last day, so we had a relaxing time chatting and practicing together in the gym. It was nice even just watching people from our booth. I also tried to find people who I haven’t talked to.
JJF was concluded with a closing ceremony. There were so many attractive events that I wish I had multiple bodies. The three days I spent in JJF was so fulfilling. I want to thank all the stuffs of JJF and people who visited our booth, and talked with me.
I took photos of jugglers who visited our booth.
Hanapon, he was in charge of the traders booth!
Yamaken. He always suggests interesting ways to juggle PM rings.
His art work.
Takashi Ichikawa, I really appreciate your excellent performance in the championships!
Resumé (Her juggler name). She was always carrying the same sheep doll that she uses as her profile pic on Twitter.
Tarorin. His signature trick, head stall.
Awesome ball juggler Red G. He liked our travel beanbags a lot.
Jug-Tak. He performed as a member of MaKUMA in the championships. He is genius!
Mio Yadori, she rolled Akira’s handmade ring on the umbrella. Japanese traditional style goes well with the ring’s design.
Hachiro plays with Mag-sticks designed by Kouta Ohashi. He performed as a member of White Asparagus, it was very funny and impressive.
Masa. He held two workshops to spread the joy of plate spinning.
Fuminori Ishiguro. He always creates something with soft PM rings.
Masahiro Takahashi. 7 balls juggling with our prototype Russian balls.
Yosuke Meguro. He always gives us useful feedbacks, thank you!
Takaaki Matsumura. He was the main organizer this year. He visited us in the interval of his tasks.
Shun Onozawa. He once shot a promotional video of PM russian balls for us. I want to learn more from him!
Kotaro. He was the other member of MaKUMA. His ideas are always out-of-the-box…
Takashi Imase, he is the same age as me.
He let me try VR juggling in Naranja booth. Thank you!
His name is Shin Moon Hong, who is the executive officer of Korea Juggling Association, and he always welcomes me whenever I go to Korea. He first came to JJF in 2006, which inspired him to study Japanese and now he is a very fluent Japanese speaker.
Multi juggler, Lim Sang Yun. I met him in JJF 2017 in Fukuoka as well.
Lee Hakin. In Korea, he usually performs with diabolo in Korean Folk Village.
Sim Kiwon. He is working on “Marching Devilsticks”.
I met so many people in JJF this year!
On a different note, I accidentally found a photo I took 12 years ago in JJF, so I took a picture again at the same spot. Thanks Shogun for the picture.
In 2006, I had few friends, so I had to take a photo by myself putting a camera on the floor. The core of myself has not changed I guess, but I got to meet so many people since then, thanks to juggling.
Thank you everyone, and see you next year!
Translated by Naoya Aoki