Friday, October 26, 2007

Culture Festival

Last Saturday was the Culture festival at the junior high schools. In addition, for one of the schools, this year is its 60th anniversary, so it was especially important. If I haven't mentioned it before, for the Japanese, junior high school has the same kind of emotional attachment that high school does for Americans - it's the end of your geographic-based schooling, where you've been with the same people for nine years. They even have reunions. My girlfriend went to her 15th this summer.

Culture day kicked off with a ceremony to commemorate the school. And as with any special occasion in Japan, there were speeches. Lots of speeches. Lots of very long speeches. Since I couldn't understand 80% of it anyway, I found myself dozing off. I started to feel bad, but then realized the gym teacher next to me was dozing as well, with a nice stream of saliva mucking up his shirt as well. So I went back to sleep. To make up for all the boringness, they'd hired a taiko group to come play. So I was jolted out of my nice dream by a shout and lots of banging on drums. The group was pretty awesome, really.

Afterwards, the booths and things opened up. The students had created a variety of activities and so on to entertain the family members and locals. A really cool one was called somen. I'd seen the ichinensei (first-years) building the setup earlier in the week, but didn't really understand what they were getting at. They'd taken lengths of thick bamboo and cut it in half lengthwise. These lengths were connected and made into a kind of ramp. A hose at the higher end spat out water and ran all the way down, winding up in a kiddie pool at the far end. People would buy tickets and sit alongside the ramp, with a pair of chopsticks and a bowl of tsuyu, a kind of weak soy sauce. The high end was obscured by a cloth, so you couldn't see the students behind there dropping noodles into the stream. They'd come down at a pretty good clip, and you had to be quick to stop the noodles and pick them up without letting too many continue down the chute. I was lucky, the two students next to me weren't very handy at snatching the somen, so I got a bit more than my fair share when half of a clump would slip out of their grasp. For 20 cents a go, you can't really argue with that.

Another group of ichinensei were running a small cafe, with a talent show scheduled. There was a demonstration of balloon animals, spinning pie tops on sticks, and my favorite, juggling. I'd brought my juggling balls along and jumped out to perform with the kids. Besides dropping the ball a couple times, it went pretty well, we got lots of applause.

The ninensei (second-years) had a haunted house going, which I was disappointed to have missed, and a reflexology room run by the tennis team (go figure). I got a nice little foot massage by a really embarrassed student. The poor lady next to me got one of the troublemakers, who decided to really dig his knuckles in. Everytime she'd gasp or yelp, he'd just glance at the diagram sheet and say something like, "That means you drink too much," or "That means you have to poo."

The sannensei (you probably know this one, by now) put on a couple plays and did some talent shows with dancing or drumming. You could tell which groups were the ones where the girls had chosen the music and the moves by the pained look on the boys' faces and their lackluster dance moves.

For some reason, the teachers at this school don't do much socializing, but fortunately, the teachers at the other junior high school invited me to their post-event drinking party, where it was fun to hang out with the old guys and drink beer.

The downside was that Sunday was my only day off that weekend, which I spent with Sayaka doing some shopping for a Halloween costume. More on that later.

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