My Inaugural Japanese High School Festival Experience & Event Coverage

Today marks my inaugural high school festival experience, which has necessitated me breaking blog convention and dedicating a post exclusively to it, amidst the twiggly sparks and random bursts of excitement as I settle down to wind down after a long day. In other words ….

I WAS EXTREMELY EXCITED!!! 😀 ❤

My excitement knows no bounds, it even precipitated a vivid nightmare of ghosts, before this very fateful day.

I MEAN WHICH ANIME FAN WOULDN’T BE?! The high school festival is a cornerstone of all high school romcom anime, an event that absolutely MUST take place in every anime. It also happens to be The Time where romantic confessions take place, where plots take a sharp swing and where emotional development occurs. It is also a process for the cute bonds of friendship to bloom in otherwise flatter storylines, and the fervour associated with this very sacred activity often defies the boundaries of screens and envelops its viewers, miles away from its country of origin and with cultures a galaxy away from its mysterious and beautiful customs.

So let’s start with the event shall we? Do however note that I am rather inexperienced at event-blogging, so bear with me as I figure out the best way to do this!

This event was held by Waseda Shibuya Senior High School (Singapore) and termed Seiransai, which is in other words, a yearly high school festival event that was held on both 19 & 20 September 2015. In fact, this has already been their 25th year holding it. I am embarrassed to say that I never knew this school existed in my country until a few days ago.

The pretty, colourful and informative festival booklet 😀

A little background about the school: it is one of the few Japanese senior high schools in Asia outside of Japan, and it caters to Japanese families whose parents may or may not be actually residing in Singapore. With a substantial amount dormitories available to house its students, the school provides accommodation which ensures parents who are working elsewhere in the region that their children will at least be able to complete their senior high education here.

As such, the students there are all Japanese and they follow the Japanese high school curriculum following some modifications. In other words, they still predominantly speak Japanese.

Which means I actually got a shock when I stepped into the compound, because everything was in Japanese and the people around me were also speaking in rapid-fire Japanese. On second thought, I was probably too obnoxious in thinking that being not in Japan, everything would at least come with an English translation or an acknowledgement that probably three-quarters of the people there can’t understand Japanese.

I was wrong, but boy I was glad. For unadulterated non-localised presentations of culture often tilts the balance towards authenticity. For sure, this place is a sanctuary representing the most Japanese-like Japan than any experience that I have come across in my country.

What results is that students, ushers, and ambassadors start speaking to me and my friends in Japanese first, and then we go “I’am sorry …” upon which they realise that we aren’t Japanese at all, and they switch to English, which lightens our language burden quite a lot.

So anyway, the festival is open to the public and to all ages. There isn’t any entrance fee, which is a major plus. Also, the public is expected to vote for the best event at the end of their experience.

So the first classroom I went to held a Japanese street fair theme, termed ‘四季 Four Seasons’. Basically there were mini games held throughout the room, and we had to play each of them and score as much points as possible.

Ring-tossing station!

These games are typical arcade games like tossing rings, throwing balls and Ball-scooping in place of goldfish scooping. Of course, with my severe lack of hand-eye coordination I didn’t actually manage to score much at all. But I managed to scoop some balls so I got one of the balls as a gift (in place of my imaginary goldfish which would have been in Japan). Still, yay! 😀

Ball-throwing station which had three levels of difficulty. I chose ‘easy’ obviously. And still didn’t score anything more than a 1. Le sigh.

My Pin-The-Kappa attempt which was surprisingly good. Except I got the smile and the hat confused. Photo Credits: my friend who took the picture.

The girls were all dressed in their yukatas and exacting traditional ninety degrees bows. They however opted to wear slippers instead of clogs perhaps because of the convenience I guess. What we gushed about though, were their pretty hairdos that seemed so simple for them, something which I would have to spend 20 minutes doing up in front of the mirror (and then again, no thank you because NO TIME).

Also, the era of blackboards have long preceded me. I have never had the chance to use one because I was born too late. I would have appreciated all the chalk colours which would have made lessons a ton more interesting …

At noon, I was practically squeezing through a huge mass of people. For an event that practically has had no publicity anywhere, there sure are many people in the loop. Everywhere had queues so its the exhibitions next!

Kawaii Kaneki-kun and Magi

I spy Tsuna from Hitman Reborn and unknown character (please help me to identify him!)

This says ‘Art Club’, looking at the kanji/Chinese characters.

Nice view. Nice aircon.

Of course we couldn’t resist sticking our heads in.

Understandably, the art club exhibition titled ‘浮世绘 Ukiyoe’ had lesser people inside. However, the air-con and more space were certainly very welcome. Of course, it affords us yet another opportunity to admire how much work they put into painting, decorating and drawing those large drapes of cloth.

Next, we threw ourselves into the throng again. This time it was ‘时代剧 Japanese Period Dramas’. They had filmed a story that was based on the warrior Momotaro.

This is me on tiptoe. Lol. Short people really can’t cover events.

So we all settled in on chairs to watch the film in darkness. It featured the birth of Momotarou and how he gathered his party consisting of a pheasant, a monkey and a dog to fight some ogres. Thankfully, they offered english subtitles so we knew what was going on. However, there were snippets of classroom interactions between each episode without subtitles so I was a little nonplussed as to its relation to the rest of the story, and also what they were actually saying. Nonetheless, it was commendable effort filming such a long video of 16 minutes mostly based on action and some slow-mo sword-fighting. I remember doing this in school for 5 minute-long skits and we couldn’t even make through scenes without collapsing on the ground with laughter or something going wrong with the props.

Next, we spent our lunchtime queuing for an event called ‘The Restaurant of Many Orders’. Its apparently a literary novel spun in a mystery setting.

Here’s the program note, elaborately drawn.

The story is about two hunters getting lost in a forest and chancing upon a Japanese restaurant called ‘The Restraurant of Many Orders’ in the middle of it. They decide to take a brief respite by going into the restaurant, but what they were told to do as they opened each door got incredibly weird … (Spirited Away vibes anyone?)

Taken after we came out, and an entire crowd of people ushered in

I was pretty impressed at how much the story got told with so few resources – dimmed lighting, videos, creepy sound effects, and people acting out behind a partition. For so little props, the story managed to be conveyed well (yay to subtitles!), and even managed to scare all of us at some point.

Next, we went to the most heralded event: the Maid Cafe!

The exterior of the maid cafe. Have I emphasised enough how much work is put into this?!

One thing that never ceased to amaze me is how everything was so intricately and elaborately decorated – from costumes to props to classrooms’ exterior and interior decorations. I remember lots of troubles even back from the time when an entire class only had to paint a mural on a single wall – and we only finished it after a week. #fail. Though, it really proves just how much preparation and planning goes into these events that surpass our local school fairs and open houses, where we just really spend one day making props.

So anyway, we got ushered into the Maid Cafe (which was really a Maid and Butler Cafe) but we only ordered guava jelly, because pancakes were sold out. We were of course greeted with girls in the maid costumes and butlers in suits. (I wonder how expensive must be one costume?!) Because they limited the amount of people in the class room at one time, the atmosphere was very pleasant and cozy. When our food arrived, we had to say something kawaii to our server (a maid) before we were actually allowed to start. I admit its also a joy being called an ‘ojou-sama’.

At the end, of course we seized opportunities to take pictures with these bishoujos  and ikemen. But I can’t put them on here for obvious (or not so obvious) reasons unfortunately.

After that, we went to watch a live play about samurais at ‘昔话 Old Tales’, which was really comedic despite the fact that I couldn’t understand what was going on mostly, with only vague references due to my poor grasp of Japanese. Again, the play wasn’t exactly short either, and there was lots of sword-fighting involved. However, we met an American lady who taught English to Japanese pre-school kids in Japan (dream job for most of us here?) and who translated some snippets of it for us.

I didn’t have much time to explore most of the other events, which included an Escape from the Castle game, a human maze, a human-sized Game of Life, and a Haunted House. I actually skipped out on the Haunted House because my weakness lies in the paranormal (I can’t watch horror either by the way). The feedback I got was that it was extremely scary by classrooms standards, which may or may not be accentuated by the fact that only one person is allowed in at any one time. *eeks*

Other random photos of the day include:

The cafeteria with better chairs and tables than our local schools >< And with aircon!

Cafeteria again, with really cheap and nice food. I ate their somen (cold noodles) and strawberry pudding (both were excellent) even though I wasn’t hungry, so I skipped out on dinner and now at 11.44pm I AM STARVING OMG.

Street dance performance on the first floor, dancing to English pop of course.

Picture taken when there weren’t so many people, giving a view of the layout of the interior building, with classrooms on both sides

Obviously crowded with people, the Game of Life was a game I skipped out due to its queue.

Of course, what is a post by me without at least some introspection and self-reflection? 

Firstly, it is really interesting how much reference I can see in what happens in anime to what happens in a real life high school festival. This should not have been surprising at all, but this is just another factor that goes towards why one should watch anime: it reflects real life scenarios and occurrences. For example, the immense amount of effort put into this clearly shows the amount of pride the students put into their work, which gives rise to that atmosphere which we often encounter in anime with relation to the school festival. For many who initially, are confronted with this concept, they think: why such hype over a mere school event? But now, we, as seasoned anime viewers (and high school festival goers), think: nope, this isn’t just another school event.

Secondly, the high school festival can seem like something entirely new and foreign for somebody who hasn’t been really exposed to the Japanese culture. One of my friends who came with me today has only watched a few Japanese real life dramas in her life (and hasn’t really touched anime/manga), there were many instances where in following a plot in one of the staged shows, she ends up questioning why the plot progressed in that way. It puzzled me as to why she was asking that as it was something quite typical of an anime plot – but I realised that the influence of anime logic has tweaked my media perspective to something that has veered off from the conventional confines of predictability.

Thirdly, the Japanese are just insanely good-looking. Its like their pool of genes never diversifies into anything that is really ‘ugly’, so to speak. I cannot count the number of times I have marveled at their facial features today. Its like we are all Asians but I can tell who is Japanese and who isn’t just by looking at them (I don’t even need to hear them speak.) WHY OH WHY.
Fourthly, the attraction of the high school festival to me transcends even that of anime conventions. It is a little strange given I am clearly more well-versed in anime than the intricacies of the Japanese culture, but I put it down to nostalgia to high school memories. Most of us locally don’t have experiences related to such large-scale school events, only with camp organising and activity fairs which, frankly speaking, don’t require as much effort. Its really just me looking back and thinking “If only I had such an experience …” Perhaps, its mostly my kawaii radar blaring all the time when I see these beautiful Japanese students.

For those in the vicinity, this event is highly recommended because it really isn’t expensive, though you’d need to spend an entire day there because of the insane length of the queues equivalent to those at theme parks. However, this is a yearly business, so I think the next one will only be next year around this time 🙂

So, that concludes my insanely long event coverage! I apologise that I did not take as many event photos because I honestly did not think I would be blogging about this. I did however take lots of photos but with me and/or my friends in them; I have refrained from putting up those together with photos of individual students mainly due to privacy reasons so I am really sorry for that. (Though, if any of you want to look at more photos or ask me anything, just email me and I’ll figure something out.)

Hope you enjoyed this post, and feel free to leave a comment about anything! 😀

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15 thoughts on “My Inaugural Japanese High School Festival Experience & Event Coverage

  1. Oh wow, this looks/sounds like it was an amazing time! I have definitely never heard of anything like this in the States, and more so in Florida where there is such a small Japanese population in general. It’s amazing how much work they put into these festivals, as you said I remember in high school when we needed to do skits it was kind of awkward and we ended up laughing the whole time, but the pride in all the work they put in really shows! You’re so lucky you get to attend this annually now, it seems like such a fun time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Its possible that any international school catered solely to Japanese may hold such festivals, though they may not be in your state as you said! Though I think the best experience probably comes in going to Japan and visiting their high schools instead xD
      Exactly! Those days where we were all half-fooling around and not really putting our best efforts into things make me regret now, to be honest xD Their pride in their work really shows in how much effort they put into doing everything, which results in a nice experience for guests as well 😀 It is indeed fun, hehe 😀

      Like

  2. Every anime fan’s wildest wet dream, and you got the first hand experience. I’m so INCREDIBLY jealous!! Judging by your experience, they seem to take a lot of pride in their work. In the U.S., school-run events that are this decorative and cultural are practically nonexistent, which makes me cry internally. I’m glad you had a grand time, even though there were a few inconveniences. This makes me want to just paint posters and fold paper flowers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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