Every since I arrived in Japan there was one event that kept cropping up, a red letter day that would pass during my three short months abroad: Temple University Japan’s 30th Anniversary Student Festival. Even though the event itself wasn’t until October, I kept seeing flyers for it all the way back in August. From orientation to the start of the semester to midterms there have been various flyers, announcements, and recruiting calls for the big brewhaha. So last week when I got my hands on the finalized schedule I immediately whipped out my pen and started making plans. Oh the plans. There was going to be a dance competition, a screening of student films, takaino drums preformed by a local school, games, food, and more. Even the opening ceremonies, an event I never attend for anything, promised gifts to anyone who shows up. I learned something about myself; the vague promise of some mystery gift is enough to get me up at 9 in the morning.
So come festival day I woke up, went back to sleep, woke up, passed out, came too, and dragged myself out of bed somehow ahead of schedule, and caught the train to Tamachi. The directions printed on the flyer turned out to be redundant since the flags advertising the festival were large enough to be seen from the main street. So with my trusty camera at the ready I went to the grounds of the school that was hosting the festival, eager to see what two months and the coordinated efforts of Temple Japan could produce. And the answer is… are you ready?…
A bunch of pumpkins, a handful of MacGyvered game stalls, a big bouncy thing, and some food trucks. In retrospect that sounds about right for two months work from TUJ students. Okay, I’m not being all that fair. What you see isn’t the entire festival. Here’s the rest.
Okay, I’ll admit I’m being facetious about this. The whole thing was a lot smaller than I was expecting for the 30th anniversary of the old American university in Japan, but despite its modest size it was a lot of fun. The psychology club set up basic personality tests and other little party tricks head shrinkers pick up. There was free pumpkin carving, a costume photo booth, some kind of temporary tattoo thing that wasn’t open while I was there, and the gym had been converted into a temporary stage for the main events. Of the games there was ring toss, a shooting gallery using Nerf guns, a soccer challenge, rugby challenge, and this thing:
I have no idea what it is, other than fun. The host of the game (guy in orange shirt) would hoist a ball between the arch there and, at the sound of a buzzer, he would drop it and the player would have to run and try to catch it before it hit the ground. This goes from simple and trivial to delicious and silly when you take into account the fact that players are running on a bouncy house. It does make dramatic John-Woo style dives much less painful, but the inability to get solid footing makes even the most seasoned athlete adopt a looping gait.
Overall it reminded me a lot of the end of summer festival. Sure the bigger temples had all sorts of stalls and booths all over their neighborhoods, stretching out sometimes a kilometer away from the temple proper. But the little shrine in Ontakesan only had a handful of simple booths just inside the temple grounds. It was smaller sure, but it had a certain charm to it that the larger shrines lacked. That’s the impression I got from the TUJ festival; sure it was a lot smaller than the hype would lead people to believe, and other schools or Temple’s main campus probably could of put together a larger show, but there’s something charming plucky about the smaller events.