The National Tradition of High School Festivals

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From what I’ve seen, high school festivals are a big deal in Japan, or at least Tokyo.  Maybe you’ve seen these elaborate events depicted before in anime or manga.  I’ve been to two different high schools’ festivals so far, and though one was smaller than the other, I found it amazing how much time and effort were obviously put into both the events.  It was clear that the whole school had worked for weeks or even months, practicing the dances and plays, making decorations, and going in early and staying late to make sure everything was prepared.  The detail was incredible, as was the sheer quantity of content at the festivals.  Last weekend I went to a particularly large high school for a very large festival, and I will highlight some of my favorite things I saw there.

Firstly, I would like to note the decoration.  There were six floors of the high school, and each floor had a different theme, from underwater to “nations,” and each floor was completely saturated with decorations.  I was thrown for a loop when I first walked up to the school with my friends and a giant Titanic-esque ship with an arch in the middle marked the entrance, built to make it look like it was being tossed around by the waves.  I wondered, how did they even do that?  And that kind of set the mood for the rest of the festival.  Once we walked in, there were several stands selling different types of food as well as some merchandise (like T-shirts), a big stage, people in costumes, three different haunted houses, art displays, kids playing guitar, and even their very own maid cafe, staffed with adorable maids and butlers.

Next I noticed the organization of the students, and the lack of teachers, adults, or other authoritarian figures.  I think all the students were being well-behaved and running everything on their own, which was much different from most American high schools I know.  All the students looked like they took pride in this event and wanted to make it the best to show how great their school was.  It made for a very exciting and energetic atmosphere, with everyone trying to make sure the attendees were having a good time.

There were many interesting things to see, and every time we turned a corner there was something unexpected.  One of my favorite things was a group of three girls that were wearing full body costumes- a frog, a lion, and a pink pig. They were so cute!  But the best part was they knitted and crocheted the costumes by hand!  There was another costumed character walking around that I couldn’t identify.  The student was wearing some type of handmade monster mask that was both really cute and funny as well as a little terrifying.  I’m not really sure what they were doing.  As far as I could tell, he/she just walked around waving to people and photo-bombing peoples’ pictures, which made me laugh.

My friends and I were particularly interested in the maid cafe, so we made sure to pay a special visit.  It was held in one of the classrooms, and they did a very nice job of pushing desks together and draping table cloths over them, hanging luxurious fabrics over the blackboard, and setting doilies out to make it seem more formal.  Two maids seated outside the classroom took our orders- I got a muffin and a coffee.  Then we were led inside, where we were greeted by several “irasshaimase!”  We were quickly given our orders, but before I ate my muffin, one of the maids asked me what type of drawing I would like on my muffin.  I was confused, but I said the only animal I could think of, “kame” (turtle), and she quickly drew a cute little turtle with chocolate icing on the top of my muffin.  Cute and delicious- that’s how I like my high school festivals.

My friends and I at the entrance of the festival.

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