So Brian and I went yesterday to the Saint Louis Japan festival. Unfortunately when we got there we learned that the demo had been canceled due to rain. The guy who had the free passes for everyone didn’t come because of the cancellation, so Jimmy (from STL) had to drive all the way across town to pick them up, leaving Brian and me to have a fascinating conversation with Mr. Nobu, who is an interesting character with a lot of good jokes and stories. We finally got in and had lunch in the festival. The yakitori was delicious, and so was the rice ball I ate. It was also pretty expensive, but you have to expect that at what’s essentially a fund raiser, I guess. All of the food vendors seemed to be local culture clubs of some kind or another. They were selling big bottles of Kirin and Sapporo, and that’s where the plan started to go off script for me personally, but more on that later.
The STL botanical garden has an amazing Japanese garden, and I would recommend stopping at the place anytime you’re in STL just to look at it. The whole garden is very pretty, but the Japanese garden was outstanding. It circles a pond that incorporates a fifteen foot high waterfall, a stony stream with stepping stones, a traditional Japanese wooden bridge and rock displays among the bushes, flowers and trees. And ducks you can feed over by a smaller bridge. It was way cool, and I should have liked to have been there at an off-festival time by myself.
They had a very funny candy man there with his street performers cart who made candy and did magic tricks. He involved various audience members, including myself, in different jokes and tricks and was a hoot. I don’t think I did my part right in the magic trick he was doing with me, because he just shook my hand afterward and moved on to the next thing.
The cosplayers were numerous and creative. My favorite was a girl who came in a Dalek costume, just because of the sheer incongruity of her character choice. There was also a girl dressed as what could best be described as an “innocently slutty” miko, whose signature red hakama was hemmed well above the knees, and who was one of the few females cosplaying there who could have pulled such a look off. There were many, many people doing Bleach characters. Another guy was dressed as a generic ninja-samurai hybrid, and had not one, or two, or three swords stuck through his karate obi, but no less that FOUR wooden and plastic swords upon his person. There might have been a fifth, but this was not confirmed. The more I think about it, the more I’m almost positive that I’ve seen a couple of the cosplayers at the Kansas City Japan Festival. Or maybe it’s my imagination.
A big disappointment was that the sumo was canceled as well, though Brian and I could have still had our pictures taken with them, which we declined.
After, we drove to one of the STL club members homes, and there was a raucous party that went well into the evening. Or maybe I was the only one being raucous, because Brian sempai ended up driving my car back to Kansas City. They loaded us down with excellent food and everyone was very nice. There was a lot of interesting conversation, and Mr. Nobu told some funny (and long) stories about when he first came to the States back in 1975. Some gifts were given, some jokes were told, there was a toast involving sake that I think Brian got a picture of, and I think we built some good community with our friends in STL. We invited them down to the KC Japan Festival in a couple of weeks, and around 9pm Brian and I had to bounce because the Lion’s Choice closes at 10pm.
Yes, we ate delicious food non-stop, packing Lion’s Choice barbecue on top of all of it on nothing more than principle.
So my day started at 5am on Saturday, and didn’t end until after 2am on Sunday. Even though we missed the opportunity to attend their university club’s practice and the demo was canceled (and I couldn’t talk anyone into sparring with me in the backyard at the party), it was a very good time and I’m glad we went.