Emi needed a new yukata because she had outgrown last year's and also Misaki was going to wear it. I had a hard time picking one out for her because they are all so colorful and beautiful. Also, I spent some time picking out hair accessories because that really adds to the outfit, too. I wasn't sure what to do for Sakura because I didn't really have anything that would fit her but fortunately a neighbor of mine gave me a yukata that her daughter had outgrown so everything was set.
The festival was on Saturday evening. I realized that I needed to carefully think out my plan for the day since Chikara wouldn't be home to help during the getting ready part and I didn't want to be worn out by the time we were ready to leave and then not get to enjoy the festival. In the morning after breakfast, I did nothing until about eleven and then I gave Emi, Misaki, Sakura and myself a bath. We had lunch and then one by one they all went to bed to have a little nap. Emi was pretty upset about having to take a nap but I knew we would be out later than normal and I wanted them to be rested enough to really participate. Around 3, I started getting the girls up one at a time to do their hair. Emi was first and I was really surprised when I went in to get her that she was asleep. I mean she was totally out and once I got her downstairs she wasn't sure if she really wanted me to do her hair but I gave her a popsicle so she relented. I think that sometimes bribery is a helpful tool!
Next I woke up Misaki and did her hair. She needed a popsicle, too. Right when I was finished with her, Natsuki woke up so I made her a bottle and she laid on the floor beside me while I checked Emi & Misaki's hair one more time. Last year Emi's hair started coming out halfway through the festival and I wanted to make sure that that wouldn't happen again. By this time it was after four so I woke up Sakura and did her hair. Cute pigtails!
I took a break from festival preparations to call my friend to check what time she was coming to pick us up. I was worried about Chikara getting stuck in traffic so I arranged to go with a neighbor. She has two daughters, the older one is one year older than Emi and the younger one is one year younger than Misaki. She wasn't going to come until six so I cautioned the girls about messing up their hair and started to make a snack which also needed to be a dinner. I just kept throwing food at them until they stopped asking for it!
Around five, I started putting their yukatas on them. A yukata is way less complicated to put on than a kimono but as I got started, I couldn't remember which way to wrap them up. Does the right side go over the top? The left side? Grrr! None of my neighbors were outside so I had no one to ask for help. I just went with my instinct and put the right side over the top. I found out later that I did it wrong and it turns out that you only put the right side over when you're going to a funeral. Sigh...
By 5:30, we were all dressed and ready so we went outside so I could take some pictures of them in front of my neighbor's house since she has such lovely flowers. My house is one of only a couple of houses on our street that doesn't have some kind of colorful vegetation sprawled out in front.
It was hard to get a picture of Natsuki with her older sisters since she's really not standing. I had thought of just sitting her on the ground in front of them but by the time we got to that point, there was quite a crowd watching us and I knew someone would flip out about putting a baby down in the middle of the street where cars drive, just to take a picture of her. It would be too "dirty". Whatever. So now you get a picture of me, too! Almost all Japanese people can do a fancy sitting thing where they scrunch down on their haunches but their butt isn't touching the ground nor their knees. They're just balanced with the whole bottom of their feet flat against the ground. Any child in the world could do it but would eventually stop as they grew older and then lose the ability. In Japan, they continue doing it so as adults, anyone can do this fancy crouching thing which I imagine helps when using Asian-style toilet (another post). I cannot do this, thus this pictures looks odd to me since no one else would crouch like I am.
After taking some pictures, we went back into the house just for a minute so I could gather our things, and then our friends came and we were off. I took some pictures of the girls in the car. They were so excited and full of smiles.
Our preschool is pretty large (there are over 500 students) and because the preschool's playground is not big enough to accomodate everyone, usually they split the school into 3 groups and do the festival over three nights. This year they decided to borrow the grounds of the junior high school that is beside them and have the whole school all together. Basically the main event is dancing in a circle. The kids have practiced the dances so they do them first and then everyone does them together. Because there were so many kids, the teachers had outlined 3 rings on the ground (each one larger than the one before it) and in the center was a mini-stage with 4 large bamboo trees, one at each corner, which had pieces of paper in all different colors tied all over them. The kids had spent the week before writing out wishes and then attaching them to the trees.
Misaki had written that she wishes to become closer to Jesus. We're Christians. Probably Charismatic Christians would be the closest to describe us. Our church doesn't belong to a denomination that one might recognize per se. My family are Christians back many generations and my husband's parents were the first in their family to get saved. Our faith is really important to us so we have thought long and hard about how to teach our children Japanese traditions and culture when almost every one is tied to a religion that we don't agree with. So we teach our children that Jesus is the Son of God and he came to die for our sins so that we can live for eternity with Him. We attend these type of events with them and one day, when they ask, we plan to have more conversations with them. Emi & Misaki have been asking questions about Christianity and Jesus for the past two years and during the Golden Week vacation, they both prayed and asked Jesus into their hearts. I had tears in my eyes.
There you have it. A confession of our faith. I've been wanting to write that for awhile. Anyways, it seems like I entered into a weird paradigm when Misaki wrote a wish to another god about becoming closer to Jesus. Obviously, there will be more conversations to come! Please don't send me nasty comments about any of this. Please!
This year there was a group of preschool teacher from our sister city in China (I don't know which city it is!) so they added a whole bunch of extra talking and demonstrations into the evening's program. The talking was boring and the kids fidgeted and the adults gossiped through most of it. The demonstration part was more interesting. They hired a group of taiko performers. They played a few traditional festival songs (some of their members played a recorder-looking type of instruments) and then they accompanied the last half of the dancing. At the very end, they had a very small and short fireworks display, although the kids loved every minute of it.
Chikara had arrived about 20 minutes into the program with Natsuki's stroller. I had decided to take her and just carry her around but once I arrived, I realized that I was totally insane when I had come up with that plan. By the time the whole event was over, it was 8:30 and I hadn't brought a bottle for Natsuki which she usually drinks at 8:00. She was pretty cranky so Chikara volunteered to walk her back home while I took pictures of the girls with their friends and then drove home with my friend. We probably only live 10 minutes walking distance from the preschool and Natsuki probably would have survived waiting for her sisters but I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that he offered to do that. He's turned into a really good Daddy.
We got home only a minute after he did!
The girls had been so good and it was the weekend so I handed Natsuki back to Chikara to get her ready for bed and I took Emi, Misaki & Sakura to the convenience store and bought ice cream for them. By the time we returned, Natsuki was already sleeping and the five of us watched TV and ate our ice cream. The girls were in bed without a fuss by 9:30. They were pretty worn out but a it was a happy type of worn out.
Here are the rest of the pictures! Enjoy!