Yeah, sorry for the cheesy title – if it helps, I now have ‘It’s Chico Time’ stuck in my head….penance I guess.
So as you can probably tell, I’m a little behind in my blogging…..I blame global warming, or possibly the rather large workload I recently been dumped with! However, I have finally managed to find time to get these next few posts up. This one: the AIU festival.
Now for those of you who have ever read manga, you know that inevitably a school festival will pop up somewhere – this is basically what it is. For those of you who have no idea what manga is, a school festival is like a fair/village fete crossed with a school concert – masses of food, masses of fun and a whole lot of organisation!
(I’m in the back left corner of this one, honestly…)
As I’ve said in my earlier posts, I became part of Campus Art and this is what we have been preparing for!
(Look, aren’t we lovely!)
The theme of the festival was ‘GalaXy: connect the dots’, which followed the idea that, as the universe is ever expanding, growing and changing, so are we. Very inspirational. It also meant we got to draw lots of aliens and spaceships 😀 The festival also celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Akita International University.
We had two days of celebrations that included live bands from the Rock Band club, EAP dances (these are 1st year classes) and a speed eating contest….
I have to say, my favourite bit was all the food stands:
– Yakitori (fried chicken)
– Taiyaki (fish shaped batter with red bean paste inside)
– Takoyaki (batter covered octopus)
– Yakisoba (fried noodles)
– Imomochi (fried potato with cheese in it)
and so much more….my purse was complaining after a while, my stomach not so much!
The best part of the festival was definitely the night time bit. On the first night we had a huge bonfire, which we all sat around while some of the bands played on stage. The second night (the closing ceremony), we had a display of Kanto (a traditional Akita display, as mentioned in my last post) by our University Kanto team….I felt very involved in this as I got landed on at one point by several members of the team when one of the lantern stands fell over!
This is my roommate, Chino, who is part of the drumming/fluting section of the Kanto team – only the men are allowed to hold the lanterns, so the women beat out complex rhythm for them.
After this spectacle, we walked back to the main stage (the paths were now lined with lots of tiny candles) to see the closing film – a very emotional production about wishes coming true, working hard and being a bit silly! Just as the video ended, what we think was a special effect (it was too well timed), a shooting star appeared! Even if it was a special effect, it still gave you an adrenaline rush! It was so cool! Then, just as were about to think all our hopes would be dashed, the announcers started a countdown and we got a lovely show of fireworks!! It was the perfect night for it – clear skies, very cold.
Unfortunately, after this we had to start the campus clear up, so Campus Art was taking down decorations until 3am. But do you know what made it worth it? These guys. They are nanaki, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more screaming girls in my life than for these guys….
Well, hopefully soon I should be uploading a little bit about an adventure into the mountains 🙂 Until then, またね！
As promised (if a little late), here is my update on my trip to Lake Tazawa and Kakunodate 🙂
This was the first of our big ‘school trips’ – I was well excited, I haven’t gone on a school trip in years! I think there ended up being about 200 of us – crammed onto 4 buses (think not quite sardines). At first, things on the bus were a bit tense – one of the American girls was singing rather loudly, in my opinion, and was getting a bit annoying. I held my tongue and just enjoyed the scenery instead! We passed loads of farms, little villages and with mountains framing the picture. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, this drive was marred a bit by paranoia (and bad singing). The other day, I saw a Chinook helicopter land at Akita airport. That day we passed a couple of military convoys (full of guys in uniform and including a gun mount vehicle) that must have numbered at least 30 vehicles. There was some suggestion that the countryside around here would be the perfect place to practice, but it still felt like the beginning of a horror/apocalypse movie (think ‘The Mist’).
We took a quick stop off at a place famous for producing Soy Sauce and Miso – home of the infamous soy sauce ice cream (don’t try this at home folks), before we were on our way again. Although this was not without hitches. One of the buses had broken down, so we had to squeeze the people onto the other buses – they had fold down seats for the aisle. At this point the singing had begun again and I would have snapped, had it not been for our Asia Pacific theme coming on – basically every time we had an Asia Pacific lecture in first year, me and my friend Eve (along with others) always ended up singing “I’ll make a man out of you”. When this song started, my British stiff upper lip broke and I joined in. This led to a bus-wide sing-along of “Call me maybe”, “Blue” (the song, not the band), “Don’t stop believing”, the “Sailor Moon Theme” and, the pies’de resistance (yeah, don’t judge my spelling) the “Pokemon Theme”. Yeah, now get that out of your head! It was my childhood (^^)
Our next stop was Lake Tazawa (Tazawako), which is the deepest lake in Japan. It must have been the clearest as well since you could see all the fish swimming in it – it was absolutely beautiful! It was so beautiful, in fact, that three of our party (all guys) decided it would be a great idea to go swimming in their pants – and then get back on the bus…..There was also a little shrine where you could get a fortune – the ones that gave bad luck could be tied to the ropes around the shrine to ditch said bad luck:
After this, we had lost quite a lot of time (the term ‘be back at the bus by THIS TIME’ doesn’t seem to mean a lot to some people), so we had to miss out one of the stops on our trip – the wildflower garden. However, by this point it was bucketing it down, so we weren’t that disappointed! Instead, we headed straight to Kakunodate. I was presuming we were just going to look at the old Samurai houses (we had a ticket 2 of the old mansions), but when we got there, it turned out there was a big festival on! Most of the small town had turned out in traditional costumes and were moving giant floats which depicted legendary figures.
We were also able to try one of the local foods, called Kiritanpo. This is basically rice that has been pounded into a paste, wrapped around a stick and then cooked over an open fire – these ones had pork wrapped around them and a bit of BBQ sauce. They were absolutely delicious, and we also managed to cement the image of Akita people being really friendly. We had a lovely conversation with the stall owner (in broken Japanese) and she was the smiliest person I’ve met so far!
After a lot of wandering about, waiting and then finding out we were in the wrong place, we eventually found out the floats were in another street. I think we ran as calmly as we could to go find them! Eventually we found one of the old streets that had a bunch of the floats being pulled down it. Two floats were being pushed against each other to see which one would win, traditional matsuri (festival) stalls lined the pavement selling yakitori and takoyaki (delicious). All the floats had now lit their lanterns, so they lit up the streets in a way that felt like we had stepped back in time. I guess we really had.
These guys were hilariously drunk and just posed in front of us….
Unfortunately, we had to get back to the bus by 7.30 (even the matsuri was just getting into full swing) so we, like the good students we were, headed back in the hope that we wouldn’t be the only ones. Luckily it turns out we weren’t, however one of the students (should I name and shame on here?) decided to make us wait an extra 40 minutes before coming back to the bus….we were ALL ready to high-five his face by the time he came back.
Well, hopefully that gives you an idea of what the trip was like – we’ve got another one to Oga at the beginning of October, so look forward to that one soon! However, next up will be a little weekend summary (including typhoons, church and a huge second-hand manga store). Until then, またね！
Days to go: 31!
I’ve only been to Japan for a grand total of 4 weeks over the last 2 years, but there is so much I find myself missing while I’m back in the UK. Seriously, I get withdrawal symptoms the minute I get on the plane home. Attempting to copy stuff here just doesn’t cut it, either, it’s just not ‘Japan’ enough.
So in no particular order, my Japan cravings (which will be fulfilled the minute I get back into the country:
1. Osakan food
Ok, so I won’t be able to fulfil this one quite as soon as I get to Japan, but I’ll be working on it! Basically, some of the best food you will ever taste comes from Osaka – it’s the atmosphere as well as the food, since Osakan’s are ridiculously friendly! Some of the best Osakan food I’ve tasted is either Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki (and yes I know they’re not only Osakan but they are famous for them!).
I’ve tried making Takoyaki (rather unsuccessfully with a Pop-cake make) and they didn’t taste as good as when I made them with my host-family last year…Octopus covered in batter and then seaweed/dried fish tastes better than it sounds. I can’t wait have Takoyaki in Osaka again.
These are basically little sandwiches that are sealed at the edges and contain a vast array of interesting flavours: maple syrup and butter, hamburger, curry, egg. You name it, there’s probably a Ranchipakku with it in! My favourite is the hamburger one, it’s so yummy (mostly because it was eaten at the top of Mt. Rokko)
3. Manga at an affordable price/Book Off! stores
Book off. What can I say? I would live in this store if I could. It basically sells second-hand books and manga at ridiculous prices (100-500 yen), but the Japanese second-hand isn’t like the UK second-hand. We’re quite happy to give a book into a charity-shop/car-boot sale a bit crumpled, a couple of pages torn maybe. These books are in almost pristine condition!
4. Punctual public transport
If a train says it’s gonna arrive at 10.38, it will (unless someone has jumped on the tracks/there’s been an earthquake) arrive at 10.38. If the platform says the train doors will open at this spot on the platform, they’re gonna. Yes, there is the little issue of being jammed onto a rush-hour train, but hey! It’s fun, and you don’t have to hold on, just follow the flow of the crowd! Enjoy it (and it gives you and excuse to casually jab anyone in the ribs if they’re trying to grope you – yes, it happens!)!
5. The ‘gaijin look’
This can cover two phenomena in Japan. First is the obvious one – ‘gaijin’ is the slang for a foreign person and, outside of the capital, there aren’t that many about. Ergo, you’ll get stared at most places you go and it’s hilarious to watch people pretend they aren’t staring.
This is a great article about it: http://www.japanprobe.com/2011/10/03/fake-book-cover-why-do-japanese-people-stare-at-foreigners/
It’s also fun to listen to what people are saying about you (pretending you don’t understand).
The other ‘gaijin look’ is a less common, but no less funny, one. This is when two ‘gaijin’ catch each other’s eye (on a train/public place/etc.) and then fervently ignore each other in case you get asked for directions or something. It’s bonding in the worst way!
6. Colourful draincovers
These are a wonder in themselves (if you know where to look). Most places in Japan have their own unique design of sewer drain cover – they usually show a local landmark/speciality. I love it when I find a new one when I’m on some adventure.
7. 100 yen stores
Comparing these to £1 stored here in Britain is like comparing roses to daisies, it’s just not the same…I love shopping in hundred yen stores, especially because they are such good quality – and a great place to get cheap presents!!
What are gatachapon you ask? THESE are gatchapon. Those little vending machines that give you knock off plastic rings and swallow your one and only pound coin? Not in Japan. I saved up all my hundred yen coins and this is a fraction of the gatchapon I bought – there are pokemon ones, blue exorcist ones, hello kitty ones….they’re everywhere!
9. Real Udon Noodles
Udon stand full of random people, steaming hot bowl of freshly made udon noodles, the sounds of slurping echoing around you. Nothing better and don’t you go comparing them to cup-ramen or I will hunt you down!
10. CC Lemon
CC Lemon is the most amazing drink, mostly since the bottle says ‘with the power of 100 lemons in it’ (the cans have less than this, but they’re still pretty cool). If they weren’t 300 yen a pop, I would probably drink them all day, every day, but ho hum!
CC Lemon! I’M COMING FOR YOU!!!