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Which also happen to be in two different cities.

Three weeks ago, my school and many others in the area had their 文化祭 (bunkasai), which literally translates to “culture festival,” but all of the English Teachers at my school call it “school festival.” As with last year, it was spread out over two days.

The first day, Friday, we had the finals of the Chorale Competition, the brass band concert, a presentation from the students of the High School for the Blind which included acoustic guitar-accompanied covers of two songs with similar titles which now elude me, and of course, English Play. While all this was going on, the Common Hall had been set up as an exhibit space, and there was shodou lining the halls of the second floor, too. As always, Art Course painted large boards that decorated the school gate. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera on Friday and had no time to photograph it Saturday, so this shot taken with my iPod will have to suffice:

The theme was "Memories." Not exactly sure what a phoenix has to do with that, but it's cool, isn't it? ^o^

Brass Band’s performance was really cool, but this year, I didn’t recognize a single song. A short break after the concert, and we came to English Play: Disney’s Camp Rock.

Now, the final rehearsal had been abysmally atrocious. There were mistakes by the pound; problems that had already been resolved manifested once more, and in general the kids seemed to think they were doing well when nothing could have been further from the truth. Some senpai had come to watch, and thankfully, when asked to give comments, they were honest. One of the directors broke down in tears, and went off backstage. The other director said to the cast, “We can’t let her tears be for nothing.”

That said, the superstitious former-orchestra member in me was glad for the horrible final rehearsal. After all, that meant the real thing would be incredible. I had faith that it would be good. I even said so to one of the directors, and I meant it.

But it wasn’t.


Well, it was okay. It wasn’t a train wreck, just a train delay. Things started off with some bad luck that was beyond the kids’ control; namely, the sign that said “26th Annual Culture Festival” that was suspended above the stage fell on some kids while they were setting up. They went to the hospital, but they were fine, thankfully. The curtains opened 10 minutes late, and in another stroke of bad luck, the large backdrop that said “Camp Rock” lay crumpled at the back of the stage; apparently they were unable to rig it.

Once the play started, it seemed like things would be fine. The cast was speaking loudly, I could actually hear all of their lines. The audience was in love with the boy in the role of Mitchie’s mother, the incongruity of one of the tallest, skinniest kids in the whole school in a long brown wig too much not to like. It seemed like things would be okay.

About 10 minutes into the play, I started trying to gauge the audience’s reaction. I heard sounds of confusion when the scene changed for the 3rd or 4th time, and thought that maybe I still hadn’t done a good job of pacing the script. Well, I’m assuming that was the source of their confusion. Maybe they just couldn’t read the Japanese supratitles that were being projected above the stage.

In another stroke of bad luck, for the first song in which the real guitars come out, one guitarist’s amp wouldn’t work. With only one guitar playing along to the CD, I wonder if the audience didn’t even realize that those two kids were real guitar players. I thought the audience would be surprised, but there was no reaction. And when I say no reaction, I mean zeeeeeeero. This was perhaps the worst thing. After the high of Mitchie’s mother, not just for that song, but for all the songs, the audience did nothing but watch stoically. Even though the dancing had actually come out fairly good, the audience didn’t clap. At all. I thought, “maybe they don’t know if they’re supposed to clap or not?” For the life of me I couldn’t remember what it had been like last year. Did the audience clap for the dance numbers? I still can’t remember.

At the end, the only thing that brought the audience back into it was another appearance by Mitchie’s mother, this time, dancing in the middle of the audience with some of the other cast members.

After the show, the kids gathered in the school yard for a photo together. They seemed glad to have it over with. I gave honest comments to the kids who had performed well, and called it a day.

At least I thought this was cool.

The second day, Saturday, as last year, I spent the morning in the Recitation Contest for middle schoolers, so I missed the second brass band concert, and everything else that was going on. This year, I had offered to do the names on the certificates for the winners myself in Gothic Black Letter. Usually one of the teachers just wrote the names in with a regular pen. Mine came out okay, but I’ve definitely done better. There was no time to take a picture of them, as I had made the process take longer by needing time for the ink to dry, and the certificates were unfortunately given to the students with the penciled-in guideline still visible, as the ink hadn’t been dry enough to erase it. You can sort of see the results in the group shot of the winners, so I cropped it to show one, and put it at left. The kids didn’t seem particularly impressed; I heard no comments about the writing, not even “I can’t read these strange letters!” Ahahaha…^_^;

After the speech contest, I went with my three friends (two of whom had served as guest judges in the contest) to see the second performance of Camp Rock. This time the beginning was also plagued by bad luck: the kid playing Jason and the kid playing Mitchie’s father had been horseplaying on the stage, and somehow this culminated in the latter getting his thumb broken about 30 minutes before opening curtain. ^_^; Another kid was trying to learn the father’s lines at the last minute, but the original father got patched up at the hospital and was able to be back in time for the play.

Even so, this performance was a train wreck. That’s really all there is to it. My co-ALT, who had broken his home rest and taken a taxi up to school to see the play, told me that he had gone to talk to the kids after the play, and that they all looked upset, and some didn’t even answer his compliments. He interpreted it as “they knew they could have done better.” I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but I hope it is. I hope they realize that they only reaped what they sowed, and take on their projects with a little more zeal next time.

After the show, my friends and I walked around looking at the artwork, and were invited into one homeroom’s “Bowling Alley.” We threw a soccer ball at plastic bottles filled with water, and got cookies for playing. The background music consisted of American songs, including Eminem’s “Beautiful,” a song that I really like. But it was the explicit version. ^_^;

Here’s a detail from a pen & ink piece that I really liked. It was done by a 2nd year, one who, as a first year, had drawn herself on her English Passport in Hatsune Miku’s trademark outfit, but then written above it, “not Miku.” ^o^

Maybe she likes Yoshitaka Amano's work?

So came to an end the 26th School Festival.

The next week, I went to the second day of a friend’s school festival. I didn’t take my camera, a fact I sorely regretted. My friend said she would email me some photos, but has not had time to do so yet.

My friend’s school is academically higher level than mine. Boy, did it show! Everything was done with such gusto! From an artistic point of view, the many pictures decorating the school were nowhere near as good as the ones my school had, but they had heart, and what’s more, it wasn’t just art class projects that were on display, there was artwork everywhere for everything. The stairs had been decorated with copies of famous ukiyo-e prints, a thin part of it on the risers which viewed from far away created a complete, unbroken image. The flyers promoting the various events throughout the school weren’t handwritten midnight specials. My favorite was definitely the one for “HITOSHI – 仁”, a parody skit of the TBS live drama adaptation of the manga JIN – 仁. (The kanji 仁 can be read as either “Hitoshi” or “Jin.”) This flyer had obviously taken a little bit of Photoshop, as it featured the students playing the lead characters copying the poses of the drama’s actors, and the whole art direction of it (if we can say that flyers have art direction) parodied the official promotional art for the drama!

The main thing I had wanted to see was the puppet play the English Speaking Society (AKA English Club) my friend runs had put together. It was a puppet version of Snow White. I thought the kids were going to perform it live, but it ended up being a video of the performance. The puppets were really cute, and the little set was also well done. I couldn’t help thinking, “why don’t my kids do something like this, on a small scale but well done?”

Next on the itinerary was a skit based on the American show “Glee.” I’ve seen only one episode of it and am not a fan, but even so I was curious, and couldn’t help but wonder, “will this be better than my kids’ version of Camp Rock?” It turned out that they didn’t perform in English, nor were they worried with staying true to the show, which is, I think, a much better way to go about things. They localized it; it took place in their own school, and the jokes were based on both the real show and on their own school life. An American exchange student, “Dylan,” goes to their school, and wants to start a glee club. He recruits the Popular Boy (who wore a sash saying 人気者 and always had two girls – played by boys – clinging to him), the rugby players, and the troublemakers into the club. The whole thing was HILARIOUS, the kids actually acted, and they did sing in English. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect performance was that the student playing Dylan represented that he was a foreigner by wearing a curly blond wig (ok) and a big plastic white nose (-_-””’). Even so, when I happened to run into two of my own students in the hallway later, English Course girls at that, I told them, “Go see ‘Glee’ if you haven’t already seen it!!!”

After that, we looked around, then saw a live performance by one of the kids’ rock bands. They mostly did songs in English, including “Song 2” by Blur and something by Muse. By this point, I was pretty jealous of my friend’s students. ^o^;;;

The last thing we did was go through a “shrine festival” at…get ready…神社エール! XDD

For those who can’t read Japanese, that says “Jinja Eeru.” “Jinja” means “shrine,” but with “eeru,” it looks like what it actually says is “ginger ale”! ^o^♡ Not only did this win my heart by being a bilingual pun, the kids had also constructed torii out of cardboard to cover the two classroom entrances! @o@ They were painted red and everything! The outer wall of the classroom had been covered in black construction paper, and the guests were given little pieces of cardboard cut out in the shape of those little things you write your wishes on at real shrines, and these were then taped up on said wall. There was even a string on the windows opposite the “shrine” on which to tie any bad fortunes one received! The shrine festival itself consisted of 4 events: Guess the Item in the Box, Whack-a-Mole (the “moles” were kids), Charades, and Target Shooting. At the end you got a chance to pull a mikuji (fortune) and write a wish on the little wish plaques.

Keep in mind, that whole shrine festival set up was inside one classroom! The areas had been divided simply but effectively, using opened up black trash bags hung from strings strung across the room. It was so well done.

Although, once we got to the end of the maze-like setup, we came to the front board, on which the kids had written in romaji, “Jinja Yell.” I was confused and said, “Oh, so is it not supposed to be ‘ginger ale’? What’s the joke then?” but my friend didn’t know either. The place was too packed with guests waiting to go in, so I didn’t want to take up a student’s time asking them.

I saw several of my own students at this festival, and I hope they were taking notes.

次回!I wonder if I won the chance to buy pre-sale tickets?