11 November 2012

Diary of an ALT: School Festival

Elementary schools hold わくわく (waku waku - exciting) festivals for the kids around this time of year. I was invited to attend the one that took place in my Japanese friend's son's school. It was a little odd me wandering around a school that wasn't mine at a kid's festival with another adult sans son (he left to go to his inventor's club, how awesome is that?) but nobody seemed to mind my presence. I got many excited "Hello!"s and picked up a band of followers who kept appearing and greeting me and my friend's Canadian husband enthusiastically as we were the only two foreigners in the school. 
There were juice stalls, candy floss stalls and book mark stalls where bookmarks the kids made were sold back to them (what a fantastic money making scheme). Second-hand books were donated by the parents and sold from a classroom by little student shop keepers. I bought several kids Japanese books to practice my reading (and not at all because I'm a total child and I liked the pictures). As entertainment there was a choir show, an excercise class, a book reading, an origami stall and a stall where you were given a little piece of cardboard to decorate and then use in an old Japanese game which apparently involved throwing your card violently at a bunch of other cards on a platform. I think the aim is to flip up the cards on the platform and get yours under it but the kids were throwing their cards like they had a personal vendetta against them so I decorated but did not play. There was also a lovely old lady who had sewn up many little hacky sack type balls filled with azuki beans and was teaching kids how to juggle one handed and after we tried and failed for a little while to juggle the balls she gave my friend and I two each as presents and said to go home and practice.
By far the strangest event was the 泥だんご (dorodango) making station. A dorodango is essentially a mud ball made by taking clay and shaping it into as perfect a sphere as you can manage. The aim is to make the prettiest mud ball and then take it to the judging station where you can get a stamp for each level you pass 6 being the lowest and 1 being Feck ya! Perfectly spherical shiny ball of mud biatches! The kids took it very seriously and some had been at it half an hour when we approached. They rub the dorodango against coloured pieces of cardboard to give them a colour and then present it to the judges who also seemed to be taking their role seriously tapping them on the table, checking for cracks, and even advising some kids to go back and work on them some more before they could be awarded the much coveted number 1 stamp. I brought a little bag of mud home with me to attempt my own dorodango. I'll post the results if I ever get around to it.
My festival treasure

1 comment

  1. Some weeks ago I was invited to watch a much anticipated yearly event at my junior high school - the cucumber slicing competition for the 1st graders. Yep, that's right. Cucumber slicing. They've got 1 minute or something to slice a cucumber into as many slices as they can - the most slices wins. Highly anticipated annual event. The teachers were discussing it excitedly in the staff room before it started.


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