Sumo, Spiderman and The Swallows

July 8th, 2007 by Steph

Last Saturday was my school festival, which was really just “Let’s Celebrate our Unanimous and Inexplicable Love for Johnny Depp” day in disguise. This is quite possibly the best way to earn my keep for a day as an English teacher. I wandered the halls, I was seduced by tasty festival treats: cotton candy, hot dogs, and fried chicken bowls. I went from room to decorated room in a fascinated daze. They were like classroom sized dioramas of whatever struck the students’ fancy. One room was dedicated to Depp himself, and was a kind of Willy Wonka goes pirate kind of theme, complete with pirate ship, booty, candy covered walkways and golden chocolate bars. Down the hall, they were showing “Pirates of the Carribean” on a loop all day. The adjacent classroom displayed a showdown between good and evil Spiderman, with the webbed men hanging from the ceiling, strands of web streaming through the air. The final classroom recreated a very convincing Japanese shrine out of cardboard, including the huge red torii gate, the stone lions which flank shrines (here they were cute cats made out of layered styrofoam) and ema, which you could write on and hang on the wall. Other rooms were filled with class newspapers, which were painstakingly detailed by hand, with kanji characters flowing down the page, and elaborate designs behind them.

No school event (not my school, anyway) is complete without some combination of male nudity and an uncomfortable homoerotic skit. Odd but true. The boys’ baseball team jogged in in their skivvies, and kissed each other on the lips on stage so everyone could laugh at them, and began a spirited dance routine. I have no idea what that was all about, but something similar seems to happen at every school function.

Immediately after the festival, we drove as fast as possible to Akita city, where we joined several other JETs from around the ken for an honest to God baseball game, Tokyo Swallows vs. the Nagoya (Nagano?) dragons. Despite their oddly un-intimidating mascot, the Swallows kicked ass. Meanwhile, I was blissfully discovering that the snack stands contained not just yakitori and ricke crackers, but also churros! No Mexican food available for hundreds of miles, but for baseball, churros? Why? For the remainder of the evening I did what I do at every baseball game… hang out and drink beer and schmooze with my friends and watch very little of the actual sport itself.

The next day was GAIJIN SUMOOOOOOO, a yearly event we do in our prefecture for charity. Twenty-four non-Japanese English teachers volunteered to wrestle each other after a quick lesson in the finer points of sumo. We’re hard core here, so they wore naught but the traditional sumo mawashi (diaper) for the fight. This year’s fight was in an actual sumo ring, and at the end, the winner went head to head with an actual sumo fighter. It was a pretty intense and amazing event… videos of some of the fights can be seen here. There were some pretty amazing upsets, and lots of scraped up toes, backs, and buttcheeks by the end of the day. Chris would not yield to my pestering, and didn’t compete this year, but after seeing the glory that comes from battle he has promised to participate next year. Here’s a little taste of the ringside action:

We then RAN home from sumo to join my adult English conversation class for an early Fourth of July blowout on the beach. This event was masquerading as an English class event, but really it was just an excuse to cook food I have been craving for a bunch of friends. I was adamant that we have buns to go with the burgers and dogs, and adamant that these burgers be cooked on a grill, components which are all too often missing in the Japanese version. Chris mixed up some patties with a little recipe magic from mom (thanks, mom!). They were received well.

I was worried about making enough food to feed 20 people, but my eikaiwa class saved the day; piles of yakisoba, watermelon, and corn braised in soy sauce were waiting for us when we arrived (despite my protests that soy sauce for the 4th is a bit non-traditional). We made sure to adhere to watermelon-eating protocol by having a seed spitting contest. And of course, no 4th is complete without some fireworks, readily available during the summer in this wet wet country.

Amazingly enough, everyone who said they’d be there was there, including our beloved Brits (a must for the 4th, don’t you think?), and some Canadians from down south. They were kind enough to inform us that not only were we celebrating the 4th early, not only were we celebrating Claire’s birthday (July 1st), but we were also celebrating Canada Day (also July 1st. Hooray!). Lucky for us that celebrating Canada Day is an awful lot like celebrating the 4th (minus the pancake breakfast). What a nexus of celebratory goodness.

2 Responses to “Sumo, Spiderman and The Swallows”

  1. Christeph in Japan » Blog Archive » Let's Dancing! Says:

    [...] at least six weeks longer than the American school year, but many of those extra days consist of festivals and field trips like [...]

  2. Christeph in Japan » Blog Archive » Dépp-jà vu Says:

    [...] Steph’s phone, going all the way back to February.  Among them were several gems from the high school festival she wrote about in July.  That would be the one with the Johnny Depp shrine and the Spider-man [...]

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