White-naped cranes from the land of the rising sun

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                                                                      As part of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Japan, the Mongolian Skating Association and the Japan Skating Federation organized the “Grass Land on Ice Show” on January 27 and 28 at the Steppe Arena Ice Palace. The figure skating show, which was held for the first time in Mongolia, was attended by athletes from both countries as well as artists. Mongolians have recently become very interested in figure skating. The opportunity to see the skating of the world’s best athletes in their own country is a boon for the fans of this sport. January 27 was the first performance of the show and the program was supposed to start at 7:00 p.m., but due to the capacity of the audience and
preparations, it started at 8:11 p.m. 

When the stage went dark, two figure skaters holding Japanese and Mongolian flags from both sides of the stage skated around the arena, and at the end of the song, they joined hands to express the friendship between the two countries. After that, the presenter invited the organizers to the stage. Opening the show, D.Bolormaa, president of the Mongolian Skating Association, said “Skating has been developing in Mongolia since 1959 and Mongolia has been participating in world competitions. In recent years, the first step for Mongolian athletes to achieve success in figure skating at the international level has been supported by the Japan Skating Federation. This time, the Japan Skating Federation and the Mongolian Skating Association are organizing the “Grass Land on Ice Show” event for the first time in Mongolia, with the participation of high-level skaters and artists from the two countries. The children and youth who will inherit the cooperation between our two countries in the future are historical witnesses of this beautiful activity to strengthen friendship. Mongolian children and youth have a high sense of physical fitness and artistic skills when they succeed in figure skating. Therefore, I would like to mention that we need the help of the government, professional associations, interested supporters and spectators in the future development of this sport. Although there were a lot of difficulties in organizing this show, we are happy to present it to you today with the help of the skilled team of the skating associations of both countries, and the support organizations and people who are interested in the sport of figure skating." 

The composition of the ice show is very interesting. It’s as if the audience is telling a story to the children. The story unfolds when one of the white-naped cranes that flew from the Land of the Rising Sun Japan to Sunny Mongolia in the spring is injured and unable to return in the fall. The colors, lights and music were advanced. It’s even more amazing to add the children dancing on the ice as if they were dancing freely on the stage. The presenter’s explanation is good. A feeling that touched our hearts without saying a word. How to create such a wonderful combination and bring it to the audience, M.Batbold, the director of the State Academic Theater of Drama, and G.Ganbaatar, the chief artist of the State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, worked for hand in hand. In other words, the composition and the script are perfectly matched. At the first performance, the long song “Alsyn Gazryn Zereglee” filled the hall and eight children appeared carrying arag (basket) and a cube of huge cubed ice, and when the story unfolded, no one guessed that the singer was Maraljingoo. Maraljingoo is a pop star, but not a traditional long song singer, hence the surprise. Surprisingly, no one thought it was E.Uuganbayar when the presenter, who was like a side wind, came down in the air, as well. 

The show has two parts. The story of the first part is expressed by the song “Kite”. By singing this song for the first time, D.Oyuntulkhuur herself, who once served as a bridge of friendship between Mongolia and Japan, not only sang it in the Ice House but also sang it in the air and made the crowd proud. In the first part, the 26-year-old Japanese figure skater Hongo Rika, who won two bronze medals from four continental championships, appeared on the ice. This figure skater, who took sixth place in the 2015 World Cup and retired from the national team two years ago, performed the Korean song. Hailing from Sendai, Hongo Rika’s mother, Yuko,was a figure skater. She began training under Hiroshi Nagakubo in Nagoya at the age of eight. Olympic and world champion Shizuka Arakawa influenced her to become a figure skating athlete. She said, “This is the first time I have come to Mongolia and participated in this show. It was colder than expected. A great show is being put on. I am glad to be a part of it. The audience applauded and received it very well. Mongolia was completely different from what I expected, so I want to come again.”

The second skater on the field is G.Maral-Erdene. In the sense of being our only professional athlete, she is also the main hero of the show by playing the role of Sadako, a girl from the song “Hiroshima’s Kite”, and a white crane that flies between Mongolia and Japan. In addition, she is promoting the name of Mongolia in major international competitions such as Asian Games, Grand Prix, and Youth and Student Games. She was born in Ulaanbaatar but started skating at the Orion Club in Nagoya, Japan in 2005. In 2011, she became the first figure skater to represent Mongolia at the Asian Games. G.Maral-Erdene, who moved to Nagoya with her parents at the age of five and has been skating in Japan for 16 years, said, “This is the first time such a big ice show has been held in Mongolia, and it is an honor for me to participate in this event. This show is a joint performance of sports and art. I will perform the part of “Swan Lake” with the ballerina. It’s a performance I’ve never done before, so I’m very excited.” She said during the press conference that she will show her works in combination with the live performance of the singers. 

During the 20-minute intermission of the first half of the game, fans took a break to admire the skating. Children are often seen lining up the foam candy. I was proud of my future generation when I saw that they put the paper of the candy they ate and the bottle of the drink they drank into the trash. In general, children of this day were well-mannered and urban cultured. While we were waiting, a blue car named “Zamboni” with the words “Dreams Come True - Ice Town” and pictures of snowflakes managed to clean the ice field. The snow piled up by the car was scooped up by two young men into a bucket and carried away, and the field was completely clean. 

The second part of the performance started with the Tsam dance. It's one of the most important ritual of Buddhism. Young monks dance it, wearing costumes and masks that symbolize different apostles, devils, animals, or real persons. The dance principally stages characters of Buddhist legends and animals that symbolize good and bad influences. The section aims to show the mutual worship between Mongolia, which worships the steppes, and Japan, which worships the water and the sea. In the second part, Japanese professional figure skaters Hiroki Honda and Tsunehito Karakawa performed. A young man named Tsunehito Karakawa showed how the smallest but most interesting ice rink can be skated and shown off. One of the most awe-inspiring performances of the day was undoubtedly the virtuosity of Chisato Uramatsu from Toyota City. The 21-year-old figure skater, who has been skating since she was five years old and won a prize at the international Grand Prix competition, gave a performance that included the heaviest elements to the most vibrant music and ended the performance with warm applause. Everyone who saw the finished joint work was greeted with applause. Indeed, dancers from both countries danced and skaters performed freestyle, and it was “super” in the true sense of the word. 

It is clear how big the event was when a team of 256 people worked. Among them, the most dedicated people were the volunteer workers. Also, we cannot thank the organization and community that built such an Ice House in Mongolia. Russian figure skating stars are expected to play in the Steppe Arena soon. The World Cup of Ice Hockey will be held. I did not expect to see all events in my country. Our country is developing. In general, it looks luxurious to see skating right next to you. That’s why it excited not only the children and the audience. We would like to congratulate and express our gratitude to the organizers, athletes, artists, and partner organizations for such a wonderful performance. I hope the development of Mongolian skating goes to the World.

Dashmaa D