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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #535  (Vol. 11, No. 26)  This edition is for the week of June 21--27, 2010.

"Knight and Day"  by Mike Smith
Astro-Zombies M3: Cloned – Florida Premier  by ED Tucker
FANGRRL Goes to the Florida Premiere of Astro-Zombies: M3: Cloned  by Lisa Scherer
Tampa’s Natsumatsuri  by Jason Fetters
Passing On .... Movie Notes .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Tampa’s Natsumatsuri

Last Saturday I volunteered to participate in Tampa’s Natsumatsuri at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Seffner. In Japanese Natsu means Summer and Matsuri means festival so, in other words, Tampa’s Japanese Summer Festival.

Arriving at the grounds behind the church, I had no idea what to expect. I thought it was going to be small. I walked over to John, the Event Coordinator, and he pointed me in the direction of my Japanese language group that I joined last year.

The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) program that sends many people over to Japan to be English Teachers sponsors the festival each year. All proceeds from tickets sells, raffle tickets, and food bought goes towards covering the cost.

I wore my blue happy coat, which is a jacket with the Japanese word for festival written on the back in red. It is the official jacket for festivals in Japan and I thought I was going to be one of the few who had one. My mistake, several people had blue jackets on but mine is the only one that has happy written in English on the front. The jacket was given to me as a gift from one of my students when I was an English Teacher in Osaka.

This year I agreed to help out my friend, Jesse, run the Yo Yo Sukui game. Basically it is a game for children or those who are young at heart. The game consists of a small children swimming pool filled with water. Floating in the water are water balloons with rubber bands attached. To play you hold onto a plastic kid’s fishing rod with a plastic hook and attempt to catch the rubber band to bring up a balloon. The balloon is the prize because you can put two fingers through the rubber band and use it like a yo yo. There was a large fishing rod and a smaller one. A lot of beautiful Japanese women came wearing swimsuit tops or loose baggy T-shirts. I made sure to give them the smaller fishing rod because you had to lean over the pool to use it and if you were standing in front, like I was, you got a free show. Some well-endowed women happily gave me one ticket and leaned over as I handed them the small fishing rod. While leaning over the pool they would teach their kids how to play or sisters would teach their older brothers and so on. It was a great way to meet people and help entertain children and sneak a peek quickly.

Of course when men showed up I would hand over the longer fishing pole.

My friend Jesse is trained in Iaido, the art of Japanese Swordmanship. Iaido is different from Kendo in that it is not a sport. In Kendo you use wooden swords and try to score points off your opponent. Iaido uses real swords and is a mixture of kata (forms) and cutting techniques. Jesse drew a good size crowd as he demonstrated Iaido sword cuts. He took beach mats from Walmart and rolled them up and placed the mats on a stand. Then he cut through the mats using an extremely sharp sword. One of the guys helping Jesse, passed out the cut pieces to the audience to show how heavy they were. He did an impressive cut when he cut one mat five times. It looked difficult to do and Jesse pulled it off without a hitch.

I met several interesting people at the festival. The young girl next to me was going to Japan soon via the JET program. I met a Japanese grad student from USF who told me that his grandfather narrowly survived the Hiroshima atomic bombing. If his grandfather was standing a few feet closer to impact, he would never have been born to be there talking to me. He expressed to me how lucky he was to be alive. I met a woman who designs and makes her own kimono. She sells custom kimono and offers a class on how to make kimono. I met Paul who runs Tokyo Mokyo. Tokyo Mokyo is a school that teaches Japanese in Tampa. Paul was making okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese pancake with seafood, cabbage, and other ingredients. I had one with crab, shrimp, carrots, sweet peppers, and onions. It was good. The guy next to Paul was grilling yakitori on a small hibachi grill. I also talked with Ron and his friend who are both retired Japanese chefs. They both patiently answered my Japanese cooking questions. There was an older man next to me named, Cliff, who grows his own bonsai trees and has a store that sells them.

Kazuhiko, an older Japanese man, was giving Shodo, Japanese calligraphy demonstrations and designing T-shirts for people. Kazuhiko just got hired at USF to teach calligraphy and he teaches non-USF students also.

I was introduced to a man who built a tearoom in his house to perform the tea ceremony in.

It was interesting to see so many people interested in Japanese culture. I didn’t think the turn out would be that big because this is a small, grassroots festival.

Next year, I plan on making takoyaki, a round ball with octopus, squid, or shrimp inside, using an electric takoyaki grill and also answering questions on anime, manga, and Japanese movies and books.

I will definitely be back next year and I hope to see everyone there to check out the dancing, singing, and good times.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.