Tohoku University festival

I’ve already mentioned the Tohoku University festival in the previous post. After visiting only for a short time on Friday, I spent almost the whole Saturday afternoon there. If you have seen any school life anime (maybe けいおん! (K-On!) or 涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱 (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), but there are a lot of others), you can probably imagine what it might be like by guessing based on school festivals, but it’s quite different from any university event I’ve seen in Germany.

Outside, there were a lot of food stalls run by different clubs and two stages. I ate キムチなべ (some sort of soup, basically) and a taco-like dish. A lot of people were wearing some kind of special clothing: kimonos, school uniform style clothes (girls), maid style, fancy costumes I wouldn’t recognize and there even was a Gundam.

Someone in a Gundam costume

After eating, I went to the sports ground because I caught a glimpse of a balloon there on the way to campus. The balloon belongs to the hot-air balloon club. How cool is that? They offered rides in the balloon for 500 Yen. Just about 15 meters up and down again, but I decided it was worth that price. Actually, I got to fly two times because they needed additional weight on the next run.

Flying hot-air ballon

Afterwards, I watched them packing up the balloon. I suppose they did that pretty early because the weather wasn’t the best as you can see on the pictures. A little bit later it started to rain.

A half-empty hot-air balloon lying on its side.

I spent the rest of the afternoon mostly inside, where a lot different clubs where offering an equally huge amount of activities. I visited a samurai café. For those of you who are not familiar with the Japanese themed café culture (the most famous being maid cafés), this might need a bit of explanation. The basic idea is to have staff clothing, dishes and decoration according to particular theme, sometimes other fitting activities are offered as well. In this case that meant the staff was wearing traditional Japanese clothes and katanas, one guy was showing sword practice (kata-style) and they even had two katanas for the visitors. I was taught how to properly hold the katana when preparing to attack while I was waiting for my food, which was six dango with anko. I don’t know why the only kimono-wearing person at the café was male, but the girl looked great in her dark robes with a katana in her belt.

The model building club showed many different models, and while most were Gundam (see above), I particularly liked the anime-styled F-16 fighter.

Model of an F-16 fighter with anime-style decoration

Some of the other things/events I visited:

  • Model railway club. They had a huge model area with many different kinds of landscape. Some of the members were wearing locomotive driver’s uniforms, and another guy was distributing “memorial tickets” to the visitors.
  • The international club offered writing your name in many different writing systems. One of the Japanese guys there spoke some German because he had lived a few years in Germany as a child.
  • Traditional dance theater (能, Noh). It’s difficult to describe in words, but it was very impressive. I didn’t really understand the text, though. 😉
  • The movie club was showing self-made short movies.
  • A calligraphy and photography exhibition.
  • The robot club had a bunch of remote-controlled robots visitors could steer around.

There were a lot more things than I had time to take a closer look at. In the evening, I listened to music at another café before going to the main stage, where a group unknown to me was doing a dance performance. During the last part, a lot of them even danced in front of the stage and were obviously enjoying themselves despite the rain.

Dance on the main stage. In the foreground wet umbrellas are visible.

On an unrelated note, I’ve already used more than half of the 8 kg rice I bought a few days after arriving in Japan. That means I’ve cooked a lot of rice, even though I’ve eaten outside or ready-made food from the コンビニ quite often. I recommend reading “In rice we trust — come winter, war or wage slips” to learn more about the Japanese and their relationship with rice.

So, I really enjoyed the university festival. Is there something similar in your country? Here’s another picture of the balloon I took from inside the basket: Firing the flame heating up the air inside the balloon.

Flame inside the hot-air balloon

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