川越高等学校祭 Kawagoe High School Festival
And yet another them 祭さん the festival guy asked around, who would be interested to join him for a High School festival in 埼玉県 (Saitama). Since I have read about Japanese High School festivals in 漫画 (Manga), like Fruits Basket and seen them in Anime like 涼宮はるひ (Suzumiya Haruhi), I definitely wanted to see what they really are. Manu agreed so we told Kinya-san, that we want to join him.
At first many other interns wanted to join him, but in the end all of them canceled, because they wanted to go to a birthday party with clubbing in Tokyo the day before. This however, concerning Japanese railway guidelines meant, that they would not have been able to return before 7 am in the morning.
before the festival we ate some お握り (Onogiri)
川越高等学校 Kawagoe High School
So it was only Kinya-san, Manu and me. On the 2 hours train trip to 埼玉県, which lies above 東京, he told us that the High School we are going, is in fact his former High School, where he went when he was younger.
It is a school for boys only and has about 1000 - 1200 pupils. They make an annual festival, which has recently become famous, because it appeared on a feature in TV. It is most famous for the performance of the synchronized swimming boys group, but it also offers all the other familiar things of Japanese High School festivals.
弓道 Japanese Archery
When we arrived however it was still about an hour to the next performance, so we started somewhere else and watched the 弓道 (Japanese Archery) group's performance. It was really cool to watch and the senior student hit with all of his arrows in spite of the heavy rain. Apart from that they make a kind of ceremony out of the sooting, what makes it even more interesting to watch.
the three of us trying Japanese Archery
Synchronized Swimming Of The Boys
Afterwards we went directly to the school's open pool, where the boys would perform. As you see below they prepared a big poster presenting them as the 快men隊 (kaimentai). I knew all the Kanji and translated it for Manu to Happy Men Group, since 快 means pleasent and 隊 group. However this of course was a pun and Kinya-san had real trouble explaining it to me, because he feared other people would speak English and understand what he was explaining. OK so it means something dirty, he then tried to explain it by gestures and I learned that it must be something in the Penis. Alas I found no dictionary which knows the name, but using Japanese Wikipedia I found the spelling of the word kaimentai is 海綿体, and I knew the Kanji of it, they go: 海 sea, 綿 cotton wool, 体 body. 海綿 kaimen combines to sponge (海面 also kaimen means the top of the sea, but is not meant here). Because of the similarity of a sponge soaking water, what is meant is probably the part of the Penis which swells (soaks itself with blood) and makes it erect. ^=^
Apart form that cool Pun, the show was really great. Alas we weren't allowed to take pictures, because the boys looked really handsome. It's funny because if you would say "I am part of the boys synchronized swimming club" in Europe, people would look strange at you, here these boys are something like football stars in America. The performance was both great and really funny and they made performances both inside as well as outside the water. I really loved it!
alas we were not allowed to take pictures close by
Apart from these two highlights, there were also the Movie Club selling its movies, the Art Club displaying its Art, the Manga Club displaying its Comics, etc. etc. etc.
Alas Manu and Kinya apparently didn't want to see much more, so we only went through the school house, where there were all kinds of attractions in each classroom, like for example boys cooking all kinds of food for you and stopped at the ice cream parlor. After a very good ice cream Manu and Kinya decided to leave the festival, because Kinya wanted to show us his town before it would get dark.
they built a whole church out of wood, only for the sake of the festival.
you could even go inside.
and a windmill
they also rebuilt the cities famous clock tower
there was also an open stage where students could perform
Kawagoe is a small yet really beautiful town. There are many roads, which look like we would still be somewhere in the Edo period, well expect for the cars. If you live in the 関東 (Kantou) area and want to see Japanese culture like in 京都 (Kyoto), you can also come to the city of 川越in 埼玉県 (Saitama-ken) and won't be disappointed. Highlights were the bell tower of a temple, which only rings at special times like 6 o'clock and the Sweets Street, a really small and beautiful street which all kinds of old sweet makers. 川越 is especially famous for sweet potatoes, so you can get all kinds of sweets and food containing potatoes, even potato ice cream.
We had some time left, so we decided to visit a museum, Kinya had still a free entrance card for. The museum was about an annual 山車 (portable shrines) festival held in 川越 and other places in Japan. It is really amazing handcraft art, if you consider the huge size of them and that you can dis/reassemble them (no nails). We also learned about the significance of this festival, which is mainly about influencing fate and the gods by extensive dancing. There are three main aspects represented by three figures:
It stands for having a rich harvest and enough to eat.
The happy mother.
It stands for getting plenty of happy and healthy babies.
It stands for a happy and friendly family.
And thus ended our trip to 川越 and our first visit to a Japanese High School. Here are some more pictures:
from the festival museum
the sweets street
which we had to test, of course
here you can see manu and me eating potato ice cream
one more from the festival ;p