School festival, day one (plus bonus late Halloween party).

I finally got to sleep in on Saturday, but I couldn’t lay around the dorm, because it was the first day of the 学際 (school festival).  See, in Japan, club activities are an important part of school life, even into college. The last time I remember anything resembling a school festival was in elementary school. In a public-school festival, each homeroom does its own thing: café, fortune telling, a performance of some sort. In college, it’s the clubs, and everyone turned out to help. Kendo club was selling yakisoba on the Nagakute campus, and while I lacked the Japanese equivalent of a food-handler’s license, I knew there’d be plenty to do.

Konan and Ryouhei both decided to take one for the team.

I had to walk to the campus, which put me there about noon. It was really busy, with signs everywhere, two different spots with stages that always had someone performing, and people going from booth to booth (a few of them in cosplay). My people were easy enough to spot, especially since Ryouhei and Konan were wearing Chinese-style dresses. I couldn’t make the food and they already had people taking the money (and since they don’t know me really well, I didn’t expect to handle cash anyway), so they gave me a sign (one of the ones we’d drawn a few weeks before) and sent me out to draw people in. It was easy enough; I basically held up the sign at the top of a set of busy steps and called out, 「はい、お客様、たきそばはいかがですかー」 (which, very loosely translated, is the polite version of “Yakisoba here!”).  I changed it up now and then, saying the soba was hot, tasty, or both, or telling people it was just over there. I got a few odd looks, since I was an obvious foreigner calling out in very polite Japanese. It was a pleasant enough day, clear and sunny, though the wind got stronger as the day wore on.

The club’s soba was immensely popular, as it turns out; there was almost always a line, and I was asked once or twice to cut back on calling out to let the cooks catch up to the demand. They even had to slow down or cut off sales a couple times to run to the supermarket and replenish supplies. I think the only thing they had plenty of was their drink selection; they had some token beverages and were selling cups of soda or tea, but no one was really buying. I ran off at one point to grab a liter of Coke Zero and another of melon soda specifically to share around, since the cooks never seemed to take a break and no one was really eating. They were grateful, mostly choosing the melon soda. I had also taken a break at one point to walk around and sample a bit of other clubs’ fare, or just see what they had to offer. I saw a couple girls I knew from ICC at their booth, and an occasional ICC member would spot me as I advertised and say hello, but I really don’t know that many people at this university outside of kendo.

Natascha had shown up much later in the day, but arrived just before we all took a break and tried some of the other clubs’ food (small portions for fundraising don’t really stick to one’s ribs). Then it was time for cleanup. Hot trays were wiped down, money was counted, and leftovers were divvied out to everyone who’d worked. I have to say that of all the yakisoba I’d ever eaten, that was the best. Who woulda thought?

According to Atsumi, the club took quite a bit of money in for the day. We gathered our things, straightened up, and made sure the signs and such were secured against the now-cold wind that cut through our part of campus. Everyone parted ways around 5:30, and I hoofed it back home.

Even a late Halloween party can still be fun.

Despite it being November, there had been a notice on the TV room’s whiteboard for days that told everyone about an upcoming Halloween party. No one seemed to know whose it was, though; a few weeks prior, one of the office workers had come out to ask John about the party he was holding, assuming he’d planned it. I got back from campus and found John and Tom taping toilet paper to the ceiling. They’d already moved the tables to create a large space in the middle of the room (and block off TV access), and had set room lamps behind jack-o’-lantern cutouts to project shadows on the wall. They’s also set up speakers for later. It might not have been John’s party, but he was doing more prep work than anyone else. As we later learned, it was Ayaka and Risa (the Japanese girls who’d been designated tutors) who had planned the thing, and while they didn’t do up the room, they brought a takoyaki hot-tray.

For this event, everyone was expected to dress up, despite most of us not having costumes. John provided many of the costume pieces, lending Jun his military gear and Airsoft assault rifle, Tom a chicken outfit, and me a yukata (which I combined with my tengu mask), among others. They hooked up a laptop to the speakers for music, and everyone proceeded to have a good time. Most of us had some sort of alcohol as well. (I finally drank the last little bit of the whiskey Jaime had left me). People danced a little, talked, made takoyaki, and took lots of photos.

It had been a long day and I didn’t have much in my stomach to slow down the alcohol, so I was one of the first to retire (beaten by Tom). By the next day, there was no real trace of the party, so I suppose I managed to avoid cleaning up.

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