In the midst of all the farewell partying, I snuck away to the Hososhima festival in the port area of Hyuga City whenever I could. My friend, Panda (his actual last name and what most people call him) is friends with a lot of the people in that area. He takes frequent walks in the area because it is a really pretty neighborhood and he ended up talking to the people he saw on his walks. He was even invited to help build one of the portable shrines for the neighborhood festival, the Hososhima Matsuri.
I originally went to the festival to support him and I ended up volunteering with him. We ended up doing a lot of different things, from helping set up chairs to sorting garbage to pouring beers. He occasionally had official shrine-carrying duties to deal with, so I was sometimes on my own. The strangest part of the whole event was being in a part of Hyuga where no one knew who I was. I have worked hard to become a part of the community and as a result, a lot of people know me. Sometimes they just know me as “that one foreigner who is in the taiko group who is probably a teacher,” but they still know me enough to say hello.
Over in the port area, no one knows me. But they knew Panda, so I stuck with him whenever possible.
The second most interesting part of three-day festival was probably having sashimi and beer with a
definitely yakuza interesting group of men. Chris and Anna were with me when we made friends with the men earlier. The whole interaction was also a good reminder of how Japan treats foreigners who don’t look like stereotypical image of foreigners. I, who has dark hair and eyes, was basically ignored while Anna, who has blonde hair, was a magnet for attention. Whether or not she wanted it was not a factor. I have been mistaken as a Japanese person by a few Japanese people, so I was fine in my role as semi-invisible. It was actually pretty funny when Anna was struggling to understand what some of the men were saying and turned to me to translate. Her struggles weren’t the funny part. The funny part was the fact that the men both looked surprised that I was there. Like they hadn’t realized I was sitting there for the entirety of the conversation up until that point.
I also ran into a lot of students at the festival, which was nice. They all wanted to take pictures with me, which of course inflated my ego which had taken a beating from no one knowing who I was previously. It wasn’t my favorite festival, but I am glad that I was able to go. I think it’s probably an important part of the whole, “living in Hyuga,” experience.