Saturday, July 11, 2015

Japan 2015 Day 3, Part 2: A Preschool Festival!

My closest friend in Japan is Momo, whom I met 6 1/2 years ago when she was living in Rochester, while her husband, Hiroshi, was working on his PhD at the University of Rochester. We were introduced by a mutual friend, our former Japanese teacher, Shizuka. When we met, Momo didn't have much English & I didn't have much Japanese. She & Shizuka & I started getting together every Tuesday for "amimonobu" (knitting club), where I taught them to knit & we cooked lunch together & I learned a lot about Japanese home cooking. After a few months, Shizuka went back to grad school to finish her masters' degree, & luckily, by then Momo & I had enough of each other's language to manage on our own :) Hiroshi graduated with his PhD a year & a half later, got a job, & they moved back to Japan, so Momo & I started skyping nearly every week to stay in touch, and of course we visit when we travel to Japan. Momo & Hiroshi's daughter, Aoi-chan, was born 3 1/2 years ago. Brendan & I made a special trip to meet her 3 years ago when she was a baby, & the last time we saw her in real life was 2 years ago, although we have watched her grow up on skype.

Spending time with friends is a highlight of our trips to Japan, so I have been soooo looking forward to today! Momo invited us to the school festival a few months ago, & we worked out the details via skype & email over the past few weeks. Atsugi is about 40 minutes south of Tokyo by train. Our mission was to get ourselves first from Shinjuku station to Hon-Atsugi station, then take a taxi to Aoi-chan's yochien (preschool). Momo sent the address in an email so I could show it to the taxi driver, but he'd actually heard of Hikarigaoka Yochien & knew where it was. It was about 5 minutes' drive there, & Hiroshi & Aoi-chan were waiting for us outside the school.

There was a long line of families waiting for the gates to open. Momo was inside, because the PTA ladies were running some of the booths. The kids were dressed in all kinds of kimono, from tiny yukata (cotton kimono) to 2-piece kid versions which are easier to wear & keep on a small child. The boys were wearing jinbei- 2-piece cotton outfits made from traditional fabrics.

Once we got inside there were loads & loads of people milling around looking at the games & food booths. Momo was handing out cold drinks from a baby pool filled with water & ice. We decided she had the best job there because the day was so hot, & she was staying cool :)Families had purchased booklets of tickets & Hiroshi had a booklet for us as well as for them :) We also saw out fist Japanese mascot in the uh flesh... Ayukoro-chan os the mascot for the Atsugi region. Hiroshi says the "ayu" part of her name is the name of the fish on her head... go fig.

Aoi-chan started off very shy of us, hiding beneath her hat & behind her dad. But as she started doing some of the games & we got some food & found a cool place to sit & eat, she warmed up to us.

Brendan brought Beanie the blue hamsterbean out of his pocket, which was a crowd-pleaser. Aoi-chan's fave food these days is called Big American Dog, which is a corn dog on a stick. Hiroshi commented on the name & we giggled a lot.

There was an announcement for all of the classes to gather right as we were finishing, so Hiroshi delivered Aoi-chan to her teacher. Momo came over to make sure she was heading to her teacher, & then all the kids lined up & there were a few speeches, & then the kids began to dance! They all had uchiwa fans that they had made in school. Each fan had a design on one side- different for each class & made by the kids, & it said, otanoshimi ni bon odori, which means "looking forward to the bon-odori" which is a summertime dance with hand motions done all over Japan. The yochien's bonodori was mostly enthusiastic kids  a few teachers who were also wearing yukata & leading the dancing. The older kids danced up on a stage in the middle & the younger kids danced around the stage, lined up in circles. The kids were so cute & everyone had such a good time. It was lovely!!

The festival was over by about 5:30, so Hiroshi & Aoi-chan guided us to the bus stop to catch a bus back to the station. We were all really tired by then, & were fortunate to have the bus arrive when we did. About 15 minutes later we got to the station, & the train back to Shinjuku was waiting for us. When we got off the train we headed right back to the conbini for some dinner, then went back to our hotel with sore feet & happy hearts :)

We will see Momo & family again on Friday, when they come to Kyoto to spend a holiday weekend with us there. And, it's not even 8:00 pm & both my guys are snoozing. Time for me to join them!


  1. Very sweet! What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

  2. Thanks for all the comments Paula! Glad you're enjoying the posts :)

  3. Wow, it really looks fun! My skype japanese teacher at showed it to me and I can't help but be amazed. Continue making posts like this.

  4. I love living vicariously through you on your travels! Japan has such a beautiful culture that I know so little of, and you are helping me learn!