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.
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!