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The Asian ApertureTampa's Natsu Matsuri 2011
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, July 24, 2011    Share

I woke up early, hardly slept Friday night, I had all this energy trapped inside wanting to get out. This Saturday, July 23rd was the annual Tampa Natsu Matsuri, Natsu means Summer and Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival. The event is sponsored by the Florida Jet Alumni Association (JETAA) and the Consulate General of Japan. The JETTA or JET is a program that sends English teachers to Japan for teaching jobs in the Japanese school system. Several of my friends are ex-JET and everyone had has a lot of fun going over and teaching.

Last year, I worked the Yo-yo Tsuri, balloon fishing game. To play, practitioners use a plastic toy fishing pole and try to snag a water balloon floating in a tub of water. The kids seem to really like playing it. The prize is the water balloon itself, which you can throw at your parents or that weird friend you will never get along with. I thought I was going to be hosting that game but this year I embraced change and it was all for the better.

Sometimes you need a new gig and I was glad that I was the photographer and filmmaker. I didn't have any idea of how I was going to film an event. Part of the problem was my inexperience with my brand new Canon EOS Rebel T3i. I was all set to film the organizer's opening remarks and couldn't find the record button. A quick glance through the manual, I am so glad I brought it, revealed where the record button was. There are quite a few buttons on my Canon and when looking at the LCD Monitor, there are so many options that you can do that I really need to set aside quality time this summer and just go through the manual and talk to as many Canon users as possible. As couple of my friends from the USF Japanese club helped me out by showing me how to adjust lighting and so on. Francis was really helpful and loaned me a lens designed for portraits. He also loaned me his battery with mine died halfway through the day. None of the pictures are posted yet, but readers will be able to view all within a week, including a short video to introduce what it is like to be at a Japanese festival.

Walking down the main drag, tents had been set up and many different aspects of Japanese culture were on display. My friend Ana who runs an online kimono store, Ana's Ikimaru at www.ikimaru.com, were she imports kimono talked with me for a few minutes. . Ana had quite a number of fine, quality kimono on display. My niece even tried one on. There were so many booths to visit this year.

Next to Ana's was a booth with members of the Tampa Japanese Meetup group that I belong to. Each week we get together to speak Japanese, go out to Japanese restaurants, and go to see local Japanese-related events. It is a lot of fun and a relaxed way to get involved in Japanese language study. Esther, the organizer, does a great job of setting up great events. At the booth were various Japanese books for sell. A lot of merchandise was on sell by donations.

I also saw the IACE travel booth. Two Japanese girls helped answer questions about planning that big trip to Japan. I booked my flight to Osaka, Japan to go to school at Kansai Gaidai University through IACE. Looking at some of the stuff on display, I spotted a map for Kyoto/Nara. Kyoto is my favorite city in the Kansai area for delicious foods, shopping, video game arcades, anime stores, and the best city for traditional Japanese culture such as museums, kimono, seeing real geisha, temples, and hundreds of shrines. I would like to go back.

Moving along, I saw Otani Sensei, who teaches Japanese at USF. Otani Sensei is a true master of Shodo, calligraphy, and he had a number of his works on display. For a small donation, he will sign a fan for you with whatever Japanese message you want. The fan is a great idea considering how hot it was.

The USF Japanese club had a big nice booth with a bean counting game. On the other side of the tent was my good friend Lisa who was hosting Kingyo sukui, the godlfish game. Every Japanese festival that I have ever been to, Kingyo sukui is by far the most popular thing for children to do. Children of all races love it.

Finally I made it to the front where all the tickets for the games are sold, as well as, raffle tickets. Just behind the first booth and behind the goldfish game, was my friend Francis who was selling shirts that he designed. I bought one that says I Ai (love) Japan. All proceeds go to the Japanese relief fund. You can check it out at www.savejapannow.com. Very nice shirts and I am glad that I picked one up.

That's not all, there is still much much more. Moving to the other side of the main drag I saw Ikebana, flower arranging on display. I even stopped by later to catch a little bit of the Ikebana demonstration. Truly an art form that takes time and dedication to master.

Next was my favorite area, food. My good friend Paul Stevens who teaches Japanese in Tampa through his own creation, Tokyo Mokyo www.tokyomokyo.com, was manning the Okonomiyaki booth. Okomomiyaki is by far the most popular food to eat in the Kansai area. I had really great Okonomiyaki all throughout Osaka. For a mere 2 bucks, you can create your own. Oknonomiyaki is often referred to as Japanese pizza, yet this is misleading. It is really pancake batter with cabbage that is the base. To that base you add whatever you want like green onions, crab, bacon, and many more different toppings. It is very easy to order. Just pick what you want and Paul will be glad to grill one up for you. It is one of my favorite Japanese foods and I encourage everyone to try it out.

More fun was found at my friends booth with Ron and Shige, two retired Japanese chefs. They were selling soba and somen noodles. Soba are chilled noodles that you put in a dipping soy and slurp up. Soba is the perfect food for beating the Summer heat. Somen are thin noodles that are made from wheat flour.

Next to Ron and Shiga, there was someone cooking yakotri chicken on a habachi grill. Next was a booth promoting Buddhism. Then there was my friend, Alissa, who was selling tons of manga and Japanese novels. I saw a few issues of Animage magazine that covers Japanese anime that I wished I would have picked up but didn't bring much money with me this time.

My other great passion was also on display at the next booth where I saw a Jpop singer. I met Chii, dressed in bright colors in the Lolitagoth style, (see Kamikaze Girls on Dvd for more on Lolitagoth,) Chii was scheduled to sing and perform at this year's festival. She lives in Clearwater and works for hire as a Jpop singer throughout the Tampa Bay area.

I did shoot a lot of footage of live performance events. I would have to run over to set up and begin shooting immediately. I shot an opening with John acting as the crazy gaijin show host. I would like to thank John for doing that part because as the festival organizer he was the busiest person there. That aside, I filmed the Kyokushin Karate of Florida's karate demontration. I also shot another friend of mine, Jesse, who was demonstrating iaido and cutting through bamboo. Then I was off to film Mayumi Hopkins Sensei, the master of playing the Koto. Next was Chii who wowed the crowd through the power of Jpop. I had the best shot of her until someone else filming decided to stand right in front of me. No problem, I move to the side and found a better shot. Last, was a Bon Odori dance with audience participation. My friend Alissa led many dancers in a circle. I didn't jump in due to filming.

At the end of the day there was a raffle drawing with many great prizes this year. Beautiful framed artwork, a Ikebana arrangement, and much more. It was a fun time. My mother, sister, and neice showed up so I would stop by to talk with them and explain certain things. Then I was running off for filming and shooting photos of everything going on around me. Plus two co-workers showed up and I talked with them, one was a family from India. I asked about an Indian festival and there is one, not sure when or where but I will go to it when I learn more. I met some new Japanese friends that are exchange students from Kansai Gaidai that are now studying at USF.

No amount of writing or video can accurately present what it is like to be at an actual festival so I encourage everyone who didn't come out, to join us next year. There was a big crowd this year, around 300 people showed up. That's all for this year. I am already looking forward to next year's festival.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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