Akiko invited us to a Celebration of International Friendship, hosted by the city of Yamasaki (near Himeji), the city of Squim, WA, and the Yamasaki ALTs. It was held under a great dome connected to lodge, both huge and new. A thousand or so people came to try authentic Vietnamese, French, Italian, British, American, German, Chinese, and Canadian cuisine. The partiers hula danced to ukelele music and rocked out to Beatles and Oasis covers.
In the name of the USA, Don, Kazuki, Akiko and I sold hamburgers. In fact, we sold a LOT of hamburgers. We sold out (250?) in 45 minutes, disappointing the arguably infinite queue of burger fiends. Then hundreds of kids did a Stamp Rally, greeting the foreign representatives of each culture in the appropriate language to earn their stamps. We played Bingo and I scored mad loot. There was a junior high band with a female trombone quartet, a troupe of sexy Filipino dancers, a sing-a-long (featuring the Hokey Pokey) for the kids.
Here are Don and Kazuki with their fan club:
After that party, there was another party, which went on all night. Everyone who could play anything on the guitar or uke, did so. (Including me, yikes!) Beer, chu-hi, wine, sho-chu, and sake. The monk got drunk and Don contemplated the sound of a Buddha bitten.
The night before, we arrived in Yamasaki just in time for a similar enkai with slightly different members and a slightly different drink menu. We stayed up all night having a riotous time, and still didn't manage by the last day to exhaust the booze supply.
The coolest part was the most amazing people we met (or met again). Not only are they brilliantly clever, they're all warm and positive, and the foreigners (British, French, Chinese) spoke mostly Japanese. Until today, when we had a prolonged laugh at our own bizarre cultures, on the bus to Tottori.
Tottori is a miniature desert located on the Japan Sea side. There are some freaking huge sand dunes located in the most unlikely place. It's hard to see how humongous they are in these pictures. We raced down the dunes and had an abbreviated frolic in the sand.
With our new favorite people: Keiko, me, Don, Akiko, Martin, Claudia, Matt
See the tiny little people on top?
At the top of the biggest one, which I'd guess is several stories high:
Keiko, Don, me, Akiko, Martin, Claudia, Asuka, Matt
Oh, the best part about the weekend? Know how much money I spent? Nothing. Big thanks to Akiko, her mom, Kazuki, and the city of Yamasaki for the booze, food, lodging, transportation, and hella good time.