Monday, June 27, 2011

First of the Farewells

And so it begins. The countdown and reality of goodbye was kicked off this past weekend at my former Japanese instructor, Akiko's, house:

Akiko and her husband Yuzuru (and their cute little baby, Satoru) always host the best get-togethers at their place, and our early going away party was no exception with plenty of food, friends, babies, and Akiko's homemade tiramasu:

I was really touched by everyone who came out to say goodbye. A special ありがとうございました to the Miyoshi's for their kindness and friendship during my time here in Sapporo!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

International Mini Festival in 岩見沢

I headed to the little town of Iwamizawa, just outside of Sapporo, again this year for the ALT-organized International Mini Festival. I had so much fun teaching salsa dancing at last year's event that I couldn't wait to partake again:

This year, instead of dancing the day away, I was pimping out the good 'ol USA at the American booth (note KU hat and football props courtesy of Jacob):

Just like last year, about 150-200 kids showed up, despite the unfavorable weather, to visit the various country booths and get stamps in their cute passports (and to relish in the Obama stickers found at our booth):

We even got an Aussie to come over to the "dark side" if only for an afternoon:

Besides the booths, dancing and other activities, there were also a few food tents selling everything from Costco muffins to tacos to...SMORES:

And then the rains came. Fortunately, it didn't dampen too many spirits, and festival-goers were still able to travel to Korea, the USA, the UK, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, Palestine, Norway, and Russia in style:

And because our American booth was just so cool and informative, we were even interviewed and featured on t.v...

The show, E-Kita, is a Hokkaido-based program highlighting foreigner life and interests in Japanese and English:

Us "Americans" with host, Isis, and me with my ever-prominent football prop:

So, while this year wasn't as sunny or weather-cooperative as last year, I'm still so happy to have been a part of another successful attempt at bringing a little international flavor to some cute Japanese kids and their parents!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


June is upon us here in Sapporo, and with it comes longer days, tons of BBQ parties, and about 50,000 dancers for my favorite festival, Yosakoi Soran. This yearly gathering brought hundreds of colorful teams from all over Hokkaido and Japan to compete and perform for the masses, and cries of "Soran! Soran! Soran!" accompanied some incredibly well-choreographed and energetic dancing for this year's 20th anniversary of the event:

As I mentioned last year and the year before (check out the links for more festival pics), Yosakoi combines traditional Japanese summer festival dancing with high-impact (almost hip-hop like) dance moves and music. The costumes are always beautiful and colorful, and some of them can easily be changed one or more times during the performance as a part of the dance. In addition, the teams are required to use special clappers called naruko (which you can see them holding in the photo below) in order to be eligible for the final performances:

Besides the street parades, the teams also have a chance to perform on the big stage as well. A Yosakoi team can end up performing their dance up to 9 or more times in just one day alone!

Unlike previous rain-filled years, we had a few absolutely gorgeous days to enjoy the dancing and handy festival beer gardens as well:

And you can't enjoy a Sapporo beer or a Coke at this festival unless it is a special Yosakoi-edition:

Being able to enjoy this festival for three years now (and having a chance to dance in it last year) has truly been one of the highlights of our time here! Not having Yosakoi to kick off our summer anymore is gonna be a bummer (I mean, just look at how much fun it is), but as long as dancing like this still exists in the world, I suppose we can let it go!

Thanks, Yosakoi...and congrats to all of our friends who danced this year!