Saturday, November 02, 2013

Fall Street Festival in Iwakuni


This weekend is the Fall Harvest Festival in the city of Iwakuni. I don't think I would have known about it if it wasn't for my Japanese national friend, Chie. She knows how much I like to discover new things, so she was sure to tell me about this annual festival this morning. Of course, I had to take the family with me, promising them dinner at Taj, our favorite Indian food place, if they would humor me for an hour. It turned out to be the best deal they could have made because the kids ended up loving the festival.

As the spouse and I wandered the short street filled with carnival games, food booths and plenty of festival goers of all ages, we couldn't help but be reminded of the small-town carnivals Rodney had grown up with in rural Illinois. The tiny town of Milton, Illinois, has a Corn Carnival every fall, celebrating the crop harvest for the year. The year my oldest son, Will, was 1 year old, he and I lived in Pike County, Ill., with Rodney's family while Rodney was serving a year unaccompanied in Okinawa. With the help of an American Flag sweater and a talent for blowing kisses to the crowd, Will was crowned Baby Corn King (not really the title, but it's catchy, isn't it?) that year.

We ate barbecue and roasted corn under a tent, enjoyed some carnival games and few small fair rides, and geared up for a year's worth of community parades for him to make an appearance in.

While there wasn't a baby pageant at the Iwakuni Fall Festival, there was certainly entertainment. Kagura is a traditional Shinto dance that is performed to bring in a good fall harvest and ward off evil spirits. Once you walked the block of carnival games and food, the dead end housed a small stage, where traditional Japanese musicians played and dancers moved theatrically.

Of course, since everything was sung and spoken in Japanese, this held the boys' attention for about three minutes. So I could enjoy the pageantry, we gave the kids 1,000 yen ($10) to play carnival games. Trust me, $10 lasts about as long in Japan as it does in America.... about five minutes. Here are some of the games:

Ring toss... if you get the ring around the toy, you get to keep it. It's about $2 for 5 tries. 
Rope pull... each prize is attached to a rope. Pull the end of the rope and whatever prize its attached to is what you win. 
The boys just had to play the rope game, swearing the knew which rope to pull for the toys they wanted. It was about $2 per try.
They ended up getting toy shotgun that shoots suction cup darts. Those are at the Daiso for $1.
Gold fish game... You try to catch fish with a flat net... when you get some fish you can either keep the fish or trade them in for a prize.
Of course the boys chose to keep the fish. Some carnival traditions are international, apparently. They came home in an unsealed drawstring plastic bag.

So, thanks to the Iwakuni fall festival, we are trying pet ownership in Japan for the third time. Our sugar glider and rhino beetles died... I am not holding much hope for the fish. But maybe the third time is the charm.
Introducing Ninja, Pumpkin and Mikan. We moved them in to the dead beetles' house.

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