外大際 KGU’s International Festival!! INFES 2011

6 Nov

This past week at Kansai Gaidai was, by far, the most fun I have had here in Japan during my study abroad!! So you have all heard about the Halloween Party (if you haven’t read the post below), but after Halloween on Monday came KGU’s school festival! In the US there is no equivalent for these school festivals! Every university, high school, and junior high here in Japan put them on at least once a year. Every student-run club on Wednesday was setting up their tent. It was so impressive watching everyone help in putting them together. It sounded quite chaotic with lots of metal bars being dropped and all of the talking to get the bars in the right place so they could lift the tent up, but it was done very efficiently so they were mostly all done by 1 pm when I got out of class. The big field/basketball court, the area surrounding it, and in front of the two main classroom buildings were lined with these tents. The clubs all sell various edible goods, such as takoyaki, tempura ice-cream, baby castellas, yakisoba, goma dango (sesame dumpling with red bean anko on the inside), tonpeiyaki (pork omelette), tamasen (egg inside a folded senbei), waffles/crepes with various toppings, etc. So after they were all done putting up their tents they went inside and made/decorated their posters. It wasn’t just one person or a few people doing this; it was the entire group working together! The group orientation that Japanese exhibit never fails to impress me! Thursday was a holiday for even the international students (the Japanese students got off Wednesday-Sunday) so we could enjoy the festival! The opening to the festival was a greeting from some important school-head figures. Then there was a really cool routine done by the Pirates (KGU’s cheerleaders) who apparently in the past ranked #1 in Nationals. The fliers would actually fly and would do flips into the basket instead of just dropping backwards. The cheerleaders in my high school and even in my college now were not up to this level, so I was really impressed! After the cheerleaders there was a marching band, but not just any marching band… it was a marching band consisting of all kindergarten-age children! They were SO adorable!! There was a little girl who was at the head with the baton and she could twirl pretty well and would blow her whistle to have them start marching and to stop. They played an Arashi song, “Troublemaker,” which I love!! They were definitely a hit!  

I walked around with one of my friends, Sarah, all day. A bunch of my friends were working this one tent, which was for SWISH, the basketball circle I was a part of. So for a while I walked around with some of them with a sign around my neck telling people to try Tonpeiyaki, “Tonpeiyaki ikaga desuka?” But then my friend thought we should maybe speak in English, but Tonpeiyaki in English is “Pork Omelette,” which we thought sounded funny so we still said Tonpeiyaki, but instead would say, “Come try Tonpeiyaki!! Meccha (very) Yummy desu!!” It was so cute how whenever I would go over to that tent I would always be greeted so warmly! And when I picked up a sign to help out they all would say, “Ganbatte!” After helping out SWISH, Sarah and I went to watch some of our other friends dance in the “K-Pop Exhibition” where they danced to really popular K-pop songs by artists like SNSD (Girl’s Generation), KARA, 2ne1, Big Bang, etc. I went twice because some of our friends wanted to go watch it later after we had gone to see it the first time, but every time it was so crowded! K-pop has so much popularity here in Japan! It’s crazy! The dances were so cute, and I think for some of them they would copy the dances done by the artists in their music videos because they are so widely known like SNSD’s “Gee.” After watching the shows we just walked around and bought some food and visited with friends at their stands.

At night we met up with a bunch of people and went out to Karaoke!! There were about 11 of us so we packed up a big room and also had a small room so people would run back and forth. It was so much fun, though!! They were all so crazy and had so much energy!   And one of our Japanese friends was so amazing!! He would sing every once in a while at school but when I heard him at Karaoke I was so impressed!! And he knew all of the words to a bunch of songs in English like “Honesty” by Billy Joel and “Hey Jude” by the Beatles!    That was a long night… we spent the full 8 hours from 7:30 pm until 3:30 am!! More than half of my friends who went with me went home early because some lived further away and needed to catch a train or had to wake up early in the morning, so in the end it was just me and my Japanese guy friends. We took some Purikura where we sort of all looked pretty decently awake for having been there for 8 hours! About an hour before our 8 hours was up about 3 of them were passed out on the couches haha. But we biked back up the hill towards school together, went to the convenient store to get an early morning snack because we were all starving, and then on to our own homes. By the time I reached the gate to the front of my seminar house it was about 5 am, and, just my luck, I realized I had left my key to get in through the gate in my running shorts from when I went running a couple days ago, so I had no way to get into my dorm and the gates wouldn’t open for at least another 2 hours and nobody I knew in the dorm would be awake or wake up to their phones. So I called one of my Japanese friends who I was just with who lives close by and in his own apartment. He let me use his shower, lent me some clothes, and let me crash on his futon! I was so grateful! If he had immediately passed out when he had gotten home I would have been so stuck and probably would have just hung out in the park across from my dorm until the gates opened and wouldn’t have gotten to sleep at all. Granted, I did only sleep for about 4 hours, because I got up at 10, biked home, got my bookbag, and then biked back to school for my 11 am class for which there were only 5/10 students in class that day!! After that class I walked around the festival again to get some breakfast, met up with and hung out with friends, and advertised for SWISH again. I stayed at school until the very end of the festival and everything was being sold discounted, which was nice because I was hungry and needed dinner! The clean-up was just as group oriented, with everybody cleaning the supplies used to make the food, counting up the money, and taking down the tent. I went and played some basketball with some of my Japanese guy friends at the little hoop across the street from the dorms. There were a bunch of students there who were practicing and they were so good! We ended up playing a game against them, and I got paired with this really tiny boy who was 12 years old but shot a really nice 3-pointer! They ended up beating us, but I’m not sure if that’s because my friends weren’t really trying because they’re pretty good at basketball too. It was fun, though, and it was so cute at the end when a couple of them left before us they spoke in keigo (formal speech because we were they’re senpai ‘seniors’). And when we left they said the very typical “Otsukaresamadesu,” while we were able to just say “Otsukare” because we didn’t need to use Keigo! That was the first time I experienced something like that! I was especially surprised because we had just met them, but they were still so polite!

From such a young age the Japanese have this idea of respect for one’s elders instilled in them. I witnessed it today too while I was riding my bike. I was riding behind a big group of junior high-looking students who were biking very slow and taking up the whole sidewalk, so impatient me decided to go off the sidewalk onto the street and bike past them, but when I went back onto the sidewalk my tire hit the bump between the street and sidewalk awkwardly so that I lost control and ended up falling over in a little bed of flowers that they have on the sidewalks around here and got all dirty. I was so upset that I quickly got back up and started riding away so that the boys wouldn’t catch up to me because I thought they were most likely laughing and making fun of me, but from behind I heard a voice and finally after a couple times could hear what he was saying, “Daijyoubudesuka? Sumimasen, daijyoubudesuka?” He was asking me if I was OK! I was so surprised and sort of touched to the point where I wasn’t mad at them, blaming them for me falling, anymore because I was obviously the stupid one. But I kept thinking how if that happened in the states and if I had gotten up and pedaled away really fast the kids wouldn’t have cared and bothered to yell out to me to make sure I was OK. I wish kids everywhere had this much decency.

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