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A Newsletter from the Kumagaya Friendship Association • August 2007 • Issue 11

ARIGATO, ARIGATO, ARIGATO Such Sister City visits as the recent Invercargill Citizens Delegation to Kumagaya are a success only with the help of a lot of people. So thank you Mayor Tomioka and the team at City Hall, especially Shimizu san and his International Section. Thank you to Yagihashi san, Hoshiyama san and all the cheerful members of the KIFA who put so much of their own time into this visit and who gave us wonderful kimonos to wear and to treasure. Thank you to the Kumagaya couples who took Kiwi couples into their homes one morning. Thank you to Mr and Mrs Gonda, makers of the best sake in the world! And thank you to the citizens of Kumagaya, in the shops, the bars, the restaurants and the streets, whose unfailing courtesy, assistance and smiles helped make our trip so very successful. Arigato Gozaimasu!

The delegation and hosts enjoy afternoon tea at Mr Gonda’s sake factory.

Soft Tennis

Kiwi Hanami

Readers will have noticed that in the last issue of Nyuusu, there was an article explaining how Councillor Tomio Matsumoto (a.k.a Bonsai Tommy!) of Kumagaya had introduced 'soft' tennis to Invercargill during the Delegation visit in February.

We had a very successful visit of an Invercargill citizens delegation last April to the Kumagaya Cherry Blossom Festival (Hanami). Following this we decided to have our own Festival in Invercargill and last September organised one by the Japanese garden in Queens Park. It was a great function, in beautiful surroundings, attended by over 80 people on a crisp spring evening .

We are now pleased to announce that the Southland Tennis Association has amended their long term plan and will start playing Soft Tennis here within the next 12 months. In addition to this, they have put the idea forward to the New Zealand Tennis Association with a view to it being played nationally. In our wildest dreams, this was not the sort of positive spin off we expected from a Sister City relationship. “Bonsai Tommy” can be proud, there are not many people who have introduced a new sport into another country.

So successful was it in fact, that the KFA are running another one this year. Your chance to mix and mingle, eat Japanese food (and a Kiwi barbecue) with a sake or two for the adults and free fizz for the kids. Put it in your diary for Thursday 13th September from 5.30 pm and details will be forwarded later. Please note that this is not restricted to KFA members, you are more than welcome to bring along your friends, especially any Japanese people you know. Watch your email or postbox for invitations and details. See you there!

You should have been there! By Tom Sawyer “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Somebody famous said that! And how applicable to our recent Citizens Tour to Tokyo and Kumagaya. Although even the accompanying pictures cannot say it all in this case. Never, in all my life, have I seen such concentrated noise, colour and sheer vibrancy as the highlight evening of the Kumagaya Fan Festival. We nine kimono clad Kiwis sat in the small VIP stand in 30 degree temperatures and were absolutely astounded and amazed at the action going on around us. On that one evening there were somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 visitors to the City; a great happy crowd of people, many in traditional clothing and we were right in the middle! Very approximately, as explanations varied, the Fan Festival is sort of a Harvest Festival at the end of the rainy season. No rain…no rice…no food. Each of the 12 wards or districts (think Gladstone, Waikiwi etc) of the City has its own float which is stored during the year and brought out for the Festival. These floats are based on a four wheeled cart and beautifully handcrafted. Each contains a generator for power and light and has a crew of 10 or 15 who do the drumming and a mass of helpers who pull it along by ropes. Each float has its own percussion rhythm banged out on drums and gongs and the idea seems to be to make your rhythm strong and loud enough to drown out the opposition and make them lose their percussive stride. During the first two days of the Festival the floats are on display and moved noisily round the City, accompanied by large crowds. The main streets are lined with brightly coloured and lit stalls selling all sorts of food, drink and souvenirs to add to the festive atmosphere. On the evening of the third day the floats are all pulled slowly along the four roads leading to a large square in the middle of Kumagaya. Over the next two hours or so and with due ceremony and speeches the drumming and noise reach an incredible crescendo and at this point even these pictures cannot say enough. You should have been there!!! There were, of course, lots of other highlights of our visit. Tokyo is a great place to start. Although it is one of the biggest of the world's cities it is also one of the friendliest, cleanest and safest. A couple of days there are easily filled with a tour and visits to the fish market, Tokyo Tower, temples, various restaurants and, of course, the shops. And the delegation members even managed to find a McDonalds for breakfast one morning! Then it's only a quick ride on the Bullet Train, at 200 kilometres an hour, and we're in Kumagaya. From the moment we get through the gates of Kumagaya Station we are surrounded by the happy faces of members of the Kumagaya International Friendship Association. Isn't life better when you are surrounded by smiling people? The next two days pass so quickly. A tour of the City's vast sporting complex, a meeting with Mayor Tomioka and Council Chairman Councillor Matsumoto and a Welcome Dinner and entertainment fill the first afternoon and evening we are there. The next day we are off in a bus for white water rafting in wooden boats followed by a visit to a village called Nagatoro which is one of the area's tourist attractions. Follow this with a racing noodle lunch (you had to be there!).

White water rafting, Japanese style

And then we're off to Mr and Mrs Gonda's ancient home style sake factory in a small village outside Kumagaya. Mr Gonda, fifth generation sake brewer, explains sake making whilst Mrs Gonda, from her kitchen, produces wonderful food. Truly a little piece of old Japan. That evening we wander the streets of Kumagaya admiring the Fan Festival floats as they get into rhythm for their big day tomorrow, Sunday brings a shopping day, well assisted by the KIFA guides and then it's back to the hotel for “Kimono Time”. We were all presented with kimonos at the welcome dinner and yes, we have to wear them tonight. So with the able assistance of a couple of KIFA helpers we are all dressed and in no time at all we are instantly Japanese! Then, feeling like someone from “The Mikado” or “The Last Samurai” we have a 30 minute walk through the hustle and bustle of the Festival crowds to our stand! And as for the rest of the evening, well, the pictures give you an idea, but you really had to be there! By now it's Monday morning and for something different, each of the four Kiwi couples was 'adopted' for the morning by a Kumagaya couple and shown a little of Japanese home life. So different and interesting and a perfect follow on from the previous night. After that it's on to a bus and off to Narita Airport and home. What a trip! It was my fifth visit to Kumagaya and I can only say it gets better each time! And if, in a future issue of 'Nyuusu' you see a notice wanting citizens to join a tour to Kumagaya…well…don't hesitate. It will be the trip of a lifetime because 'You really should have been there!”

The delegation dressed in kimonos ready for the big night out at the Fan Festival.

A First-Timer’s impression of Japan By Rex and Elsie Powley People have asked us how was our holiday in Japan. Our answer, it was not a holiday but an experience. From the time that our plane landed in Japan, until we left to come home, it was all go, go, go. Enjoying the sights in Tokyo, the temples, Tokyo Tower where looking from the top it appeared that the city seemed to go on forever. A visit to the Imperial Palace Gardens, a cruise on Tokyo Bay, walking through the famous fish market and marvelling at the many varieties of fish that we never knew existed. Shocking our guide Tom by having a breakfast at McDonalds instead of having sushi, the cleanliness and organisation of the large city. Then catching the Bullet Train to Kumagaya and handling all the luggage in a very professional manner during the two minute stop. The wonderfull welcome party when we arrived with their large banner, meeting the Mayor and the Chairman of the City Council. Rafting on the river and of course the visit to the sake factory where we were given a lesson in how to drink the different varieties as well as enjoying a sumptuous banquet in true Japanese stye. And of course the famous Fan Festival where we were treated like royalty being seated in the special stand with the Councillors and the Governor. And what a spectacle. The magnificent floats, the beating of the drums, the colour and pageantry. The crowd of people is a sight that we will never

forget and on the day we were leaving Kumagaya being taken into Japanese homes where we saw first hand how the Japanese families live. Throughout the whole visit the hospitality we enjoyed was absolutely wonderful. As Elsie and I sat back in the plane on our journey home , we both remarked that it all seemed like a dream. Thank you Tom Sawyer for looking after us during that wonderful visit to Japan.

Some dignatories and the delegation. Rex and Elsie Powley are seated on the third front row on end from the right.

The VIP stand. The Invercargill delegation is in there somewhere!

Three floats preparing for the battle of sound

CHANGING TIMES? By Tom Sawyer, Chairman of the Kumagaya Friendship Association When I was at school, a school trip or camp may have involved travelling at most a couple of hundred miles. Not nowadays‌.trips half way across the globe are common. And where does this fit in with the Sister City relationship? Well, as I write this we have in the City two groups, about 30 Kumagaya school children plus their teachers and helpers. These two will be followed in the next few weeks by three more Kumagaya groups, two from schools and one from Rissho University. Going the other way, we have two Invercargill schools and the Ballet Society sending teams to Kumagaya. What an experience for these 180 youngsters from both our cities! Most will be home hosted, so what a wonderful chance to see first hand the different cultures. And a chance to see that, despite the differences in culture and language, people are all pretty much the same. When we started the Sister City relationship about 14 years ago, we envisaged that business links would be the main result. Not so, the cultural and school links have easily become the most important. Between now and September, 180 young people will have a life changing experience in Japan or New Zealand. A great and unforeseen result of the link between our two cities.

A small part of the Fan Festival crowd.

A temporary Shinto shrine in the background

Here’s a sight you will not find in Dee Street

Kumagaya Mayor Tomioka front left in his official uniform

Drummers beating the rhythm

Nyuusu Aug 2007  

Newsletter of the Invercargill Kumagaya assn

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