Saturday, March 02, 2013

My men and I head to the Hina Doll Festival...

... which doesn't sound like much of a problem until you realize that the Hina Doll Festival is an annual celebration of girls and their future happiness.

 Boys' day is May 5th, just another reason for me to like Cinco de Mayo (tortilla chips, salsa and Petron margaritas are top reasons.) But today, we went on a youth cultural trip organized by the base and led by the youth cultural expert Nami. Base residents were invited to Shunan City, about an hour from base, by the Shunan International Children's Club, who sponsored and organized the event. The eight or so families from base were just a few of the families in attendance, most of them being local Japanese families. Our group was treated as special guests and the entire event was translated in to English for us. Many of the volunteers and parents spoke English, so I must say that this has been my favorite event so far when it comes to meeting Japanese nationals and interacting with them. I hope to be able to connect with a few of them on Facebook soon!

Like with other events we have attended, we were assigned to a Japanese student. Kana is a Yamaguchi university student, a social economics major. One of her roommates is an English major, so, between the two of them, we were able to communicate with them quite well. Here is a picture of us with Kana during the opening ceremony:

The little Japanese girl was one of the ones who was also in our group, but I did not get her name. During the opening ceremonies, girls, mostly about 8 years old, spoke to us and performed a few traditional Japanese dances. Here is a 1-minute video of some of it.

 The little girls in their kimonos were so cute (or kawaii in Japanese) and a number of them were confident enough to come up to us and ask us our names, the boys' ages and where we were from.

Of course, after the ceremony, it was our group's turn to try traditional Japanese dance. Rodney and Xan bowed out, but Will and I were game and gave it a shot. I have to admit, my poor son got his mothers grace, which is lacking.

Close ups of the kimono cuties in our group:

This is not my child of course, but I just had to capture her reaction as she walked in to the room and saw the Japanese girls in their kimonos. And I love the looks on the Japanese girls' faces, too!

After we tried dancing, it was on to a traditional tea ceremony. Thanks to my introduction to tea ceremony last week, I knew what to expect and was able to show my men how to partake of the sweets and tea in proper fashion. One of the ladies showed us the ceremonial steps that go in to tea making. Rodney ended up with that cup of tea. The boys didn't seem to mind the slightly bitter green tea, either.

After the tea ceremony, we headed upstairs to try on kimonos. They did have one kimono for men, which was the perfect size for Will. Rodney was the only one who did not have a chance to try on a kimono... he was too tall. The ladies who helped us put on the kimonos thought the boys were "handsome" and "nice guys." They hovered around them, making sure they looked as handsome as possible as Rodney took our photos.

In our group was a 5-year-old little girl named Cherry. Her mom, Seiko, seen in the photo below Cherry's, spoke English very well... she had taught Japanese in Australia for awhile about a decade ago. She was excited to be able to practice her English and we spoke at length. Cherry was very shy with us,hiding behind her Mom, until she tried on a kimono... and then she was all excited and outgoing.

Will with Seiko and Cherry on his right, and a fellow USMC child on his left.
Will had a handful of girls who came up to him and asked him basic questions, which was part of their assignment as attendees of the event. They talked with him for quite awhile, and unnerved him a bit with their giggling. They were very sweet, though... I just don't think Will was comfortable with the attention! :)

After trying on kimonos, we listened to a traditional picture story called "The Peach Boy," a Japanese fairy tale. Kumie, on the left, turned out to be a scrapbooker. And the incredible friendly Scottish man in the kilt had a great sense of humor, but I did not have time to talk with him to find out how he managed to be a part of this event, although he appeared to speak fluent Japanese. After the story was read, they threw rice cakes (in baggies) to us, another tradition for the festival, kind of like throwing candy from a parade float.

And what Japanese event would be complete without origami? Kumie showed Rodney and I how to make paper cranes, which, despite their popularity, are not simple to make. During this time, our tour guide from base, Nami, came in, knew Kumie it seemed, and told her I was a scrapbooker. Kumie, her friend Kazue, and a couple of other ladies there also scrapbook, so we talked for quite some time. I hope to keep in touch with them, as well as Seiko, and gave them my email and website address.

 Will showed two of the college girls how to make an origami cup.

Somewhere in there we had lunch... Spanish paella, Italian macaroni and Japanese gyoza... but we were so hungry by that time I forgot to get a photo of it all... whoops. The funny part: While the Japanese ladies in our group encouraged Rodney to go and get seconds since he's so big, when he went up there, the lunch ladies wouldn't let him have any... LOL! In their defense, they did not know how many more people they were going to have for lunch when we went through the line.

Sadly, it was time to go before we were really ready to leave. Here is a photo us with Seiko and Cherry, and Kana and her friends. It really was a very fun day.

Added bonus.... as we were getting ready to leave to board our bus for the ride home, one of the USMC kids (obviously not mine) and a Japanese girl managed to find common ground, and a crowd of kids from both countries, despite the language barrier. Maybe Nintendo DS is the answer to world peace.


Unknown said...

Great post. Hope you don't mind me putting a link to your post on my blog ( as I'm the Scottish guy in the kilt, and funnily enough, I don't speak Japanese very well at all :(
Glad your family enjoyed themselves. Was a fun day.
I have two boys of my own, Sean and Iain. I got involved with the club only the week before, as I'd got in touch with the Director to find out more about the club as I thought it'd be a good way for my sons to meet new people and make friends.

Jessica Guthrie said...

Oh, absolutely... please feel free to post the link. It is a pleasure to "meet" you. I'm sorry we did not get a chance to chat at the event. And I could have sworn I heard to speaking quite well with a Japanese child, but, since my Japanese is practically non-existent, I could have been mistaken! I hope the club does allow you to meet new people. They were very kind to us.