I dragged the kids to a cultural activity! Of course! What are moms for, right? I had plans to visit some other Obon festivals to celebrate summer Japanese style and relive some fond memories of dancing the night away with friends while wearing yukatas and sandals with socks. It’s cultural, I swear. But here it was, September, and we hadn’t made it to any yet! So I drove across the island to the Honbushin Odori Festival, lured by these magic words: “plenty of parking.” Nothing is worse than dragging two tired, grouchy kids ten miles back to the car a half hour past bedtime. Yay, culture!
I wore Chris’ hapi coat and dressed Eloise in a strawberry-print jinbei (kid festival attire). Isaac declined festivewear. Eloise has olive skin and green eyes. If you tell her to put on shoes and hand her flip-flops she will correct you in genuine confusion that these are NOT shoes; they’re SLIPPERS. She fit right in with the Hawaiian, Japanese and hapa kids also running around in jinbei.
So there we are, blending in, looking totally natural. Completely normal, right? We sat near the stage and watched the kids dance, some ladies drum, an Okinawan ensemble play. Then I did a double take because an older man was staring at us in horrified shock—sheer genuine surprise and disgust. I mean, he’s looking right at us, no mistake. Whaaaat? Then I see Eloise is rebelling against all the noisy performances and has stripped her shorts and underpants to her knees and bent over. SHE IS BARE-BUTT MOONING THE HORRIFIED MAN, not to mention several hundred other people facing the stage. Now it’s my turn to be horrified. With her shorts back up, she wrenches her shirt over her head. “I not wear it! Waaaaaaah!” Well, we came too far to go home now, but we certainly can’t stay here with StrippyMcStrippyPants and Dude-with-no-sense-of-humor.
We darted to the festival booths and bought some tickets. For two tickets, the kids got little paper nets and scooped colorful rubber balls out of a tub of water. Delight. Two more tickets and they fished for tiny balloons. Bliss. Then we picked out festival masks: Hello Kitty of course because we’re civilized, and Isaac got the last robot mask. We shared yakisoba and shave ice while watching the bon odori dancers circle. No more mooning incidents, thankfully, and we didn’t see that man again. Whew.
Then, it was time. I didn’t want to leave without joining in the dance because it is just so fun. But it was all too different for my kids to chill and watch, so they tagged along, crazy wiggle dancing instead of doing the graceful and orderly movements like everyone else. One of the festival songs says, “it’s a fool who dances and a fool who watches, so if you’re a fool either way, you might as well dance!” In the spirit of foolishness, we circled the tree, looped back, then called it good and danced on out of there, into the night, with two happy kiddos and a short walk to the car. Too bad we got rear ended on our drive home or the evening would have been perfect. It must have been payback for the mooning.
“I want to go to Japanese festival and buy another balloon,” Eloise tells me nonstop now. And that is where you fill find us next summer, no doubt: driving all over the island in search of pink Japanese festival balloons and dancing fools.