Sunday, July 16, 2006

Day of Festivals- Part II

… but surely we should see our own town’s festival, we reasoned. Granted, it was for children, but it most likely wouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to wander around. After all, we live in the epitome of Podunk, so surely it wouldn’t be on a greater scale than the float-studded wonders of Sawara.

With these thoughts floating around in our heads, it’s not hard to imagine the dumbfounded shock we stood in upon entering the yearly Kodomo no Matsuri (Children’s Festival). Dusk was closing in as we set foot upon one of the major, and subsequently busiest steets in town, which had been completely blocked off to accommodate the sea of brightly lit vendor booths and eager-to-spend-their-yen crowd.

This is what a festival should feel like! Vendors smiling broadly and hawking their wares, individual members of the throng laughing and freely enjoying themselves, girls prancing around in their beautiful summer yukatas, boys bonking each other with large plastic inflatable bottles, squeals from the children as they succeed in the game of catching goldfish, the hum of energy, the natural smiles as each attendee is caught up in the excitement of the moment…

I was enchanted as my husband grinned at me and mentioned that this was nicer than the fireworks festival scheduled in the next couple of weeks since there was actually room to walk. Before we could enjoy ourselves too much though, there rang out an all too familiar call:

Ehhh?? アシューリ! HELLO!

What the…

::excited whispers of “おくさん? スータ!”::

Was that my name??


::bursts of laughter::

It took a second before my brain started doing its job of making connections; children’s fest… children… around the area… my husband's a teacher… riiiight, these are his students.

Sure enough, it seemed like every 10 steps from the time we entered to the time we left the festivities were accompanied by groups of students gasping in surprise at the sight of their English teacher outside of school, followed by either an enthusiastic greeting or a nervous smile and head duck of acknowledgement. Not really knowing what else to do, I smiled while Ash responded with a casual “Hello!” and pushed me onward. Being famous really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, this being one of those moments where you wish you could be an anonymous foreigner just soaking in the ambiance.

Despite this surprising and slightly uncomfortable aspect, we thoroughly enjoyed what our little town had to offer on the streets of Baba-cho and resolved not to dismiss it so lightly next time. The contrast between our evening excursion and afternoon of float-viewing was quite drastic, and I was left to wonder what to attribute the difference to.

Our trophy from successfully navigating through the throng of students was a luscious candy apple. Not caramel- candy. Cotton candy tasting candy, to be precise. The combination of candy sweetness and tart apple juice in every bite was heavenly. It served as a good end to a tiring day.


Kyle said...

Heather says cotton candy encased apples sound less than appealing, however, Emma, Dakota, and I would no doubt have enjoyed them. It sounds like you guys had lots of fun despite running into Ash's work left and right.
Out of curiosity, what does "su-ta" mean? I got the wife part, but can't figure out su-ta. Had they never seen you (Star) before? I suppose when I was little, it was difficult to imagine that my teachers existed outside of school and were married, is that what all of the excitement was about?
Anyway, I'm glad to hear that you guys are having fun in the land of the rising sun.

Ljw said...

I recall Star telling me in past emails that many of the locals pronounce her name with more syllables than necessary. Instead of "Star" it somehow comes out as "Su-ta". Go fig! I guess they have trouble with R's and L's? I am pretty sure that that is what's being said in her story-blog. If I'm wrong, I'm sure she'll tell us. :D

Star said...

Tell Heather the combination of this hard candy and apple was way better than the caramel variety, and I like caramel apples. I think she'd be pleasantly surprised :)

Yes, "Su-ta" is the what comes out during the first try of a Japanese person repeating my name. I'm kind of surprised it's not "Su-ta-ru", since that seems a little closer, but it appears they can't really hear the "r" at the end unless I point it out. Add that with their difficulty in pronouncing syllables without a vowel of some sort attached, and it all makes sense in a way.

To be fair, I'm sure I mangle the pronunciation of Japanese names all the time, what with my American accent and all :)

Some of Ash's students have seen me, but most have not- they only know me from his introduction lesson. We're not quite sure what all the excitement was about (beyond not being Japanese), but it could very well have been the shocking discovery that he exists outside the school grounds.