Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Seika Children's Festival

 On October 16th, Seika held the 8th annual Seika Children’s Festival, and I have to say, it was possibly the most fun I’ve had all year. From 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, kids from all over Seika got the chance to play games, make arts and crafts, and listen to concerts.

The event opened early in the morning with a few words from the mayor and other officials, followed by concerts from a local school band, and the town Boys and Girls Chorus. After the performances kids had the chance to wander around the Mukunoki Center auditorium, playing with all kinds of fun things. They could make flower bookmarks, do some yoga, make paper helicopters, learn some sign language, and all other kind of fun things!

For my part, I helped out at the international exchange booth, leading a ring toss game, talking to the kids about my home back in Wisconsin, and just generally having a great time. The children also got to cut out and make little rabbits with messages on them that the Seika Global Network is going to send to a school in Norman, Oklahoma, Seika’s sister city. I have to say that, being a big kid at heart myself, the entire day was more fun than a barrel of spider monkeys. Some of the kids were nervous talking to me at first, probably on account of my fearsome beard, but once they opened up they were all smiles and looked like they were having a great time. When my Dad came a while back, he brought me about 40 pounds of Halloween candy, so I decided that it would be a good prize for kids who played ring toss. Based on the fact that those 40 pounds of candy are now all gone, I’ll go ahead and say that the event was a great success.


Not surprisingly, I got a lot of questions from the kids about why I could speak Japanese. I tried to explain that anybody can learn a foreign language if they try, and that I’d been studying Japanese for 6 years, longer than some of them had been alive! Lots of Japanese kids, and some adults as well, have the misconception that foreign people can’t learn to speak Japanese. Hopefully by talking to these kids in Japanese some of them learned that anyone, Japanese or not, can learn the language.

And on a cultural note, one thing that always surprises me about Japan is how independent the kids are. During the day, I had plenty of kids come up to talk to me and play the ring toss game without their parents around. This happens in everyday situations too, as you’ll often see kids in the street or in shops wandering around by themselves. Although you’ll occasionally see kids by themselves in America, Japanese kids seem to be given a lot more freedom in roaming around and exploring.

I think the event was a great success, and the kids I met and talked to just made my day, even if they made fun of my beard. Hopefully some of the kids remember me when I go to visit their schools in the coming months.

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