Yesterday I went to the New Year’s festival at the Morikami Museum and Gardens. Having been back from Japan less than a month, I thought I’d write up my impressions, good and not so good. Times are approximate. Starting from the line to get in:
9:50 — “I know how to pronounce sah-kii because my friend works in a Japanese restaurant.” She meant sakè. (= ‘sah-keh)
10:00 — Got my first staff smile of the day while buying my ticket. She said she loved my yukata.
10:05 — Saw my first (but not last) woman in a Chinese bathrobe.
10:15 — Did some catching up with an old friend at the fortune paper booth.
11:30 — Two girls asked if they could take my photo for social media promotions. Yeah!
12:00 — Saw a group of girls in awesome loli costumes. Also wrote my wish on a board with a bunch of daruma faces and filled in its right eye. If my wish comes true I can go back next year and fill in the other eye. 🙂
1:30 — Went to the tea ceremony demonstration, which was packed. I felt really happy about all the interest in what’s usually a more under-the-radar art form. (Except, guys in the tree, seriously? You must not even have known what you were trying to look at, since that kind of behavior doesn’t fly in tea ceremony.)
2:15 — Got asked by another promo guy for a photo. He said I might feature on the New Year’s leaflet next year. Cool.
3:00 — (After James and I spent five minutes answering a little girl’s questions on kimono and how to study Japanese)
Random guy with a Japanese girlfriend who literally just fed him this information: “Hey, um, I dunno how you guys take criticism, but… your kimono should be right over left.”
James: “That’s for dead people.”
Guy: (looks stupidly at his girlfriend)
Girlfriend: “Heh? I though it was the other way.”
(Followed by about 30 seconds of James and I correcting her in Japanese while her boyfriend looks lost. Ends with her saying “I’ll look into it” and running away.)
***Word of advice, guys. Don’t assume that other people are ignorant weaboos just because you’re Japanese or have a Japanese S.O. It will come back and bite you if you if you don’t know what you’re talking about, and especially if the opponent you choose is someone who does.
The verdict: I love the Morikami and I love that they try to get the general public interested in Japanese culture. There are many authentic things about the festival, like koto, traditional games, and tea ceremony. But as someone who lived in Japan for two years, I can see what’s been watered down or adjusted for an American audience. I don’t fault the Morikami for that; I’m in the minority for actually liking matcha and knowing the difference between kimono, yukata, and the all-too-prevalent Chinese bathrobes. And I also understand that being interested in a culture is not the same as understanding or even having respect for that culture. So, in the big scheme of things, the festival did serve its purpose of exposing people to Japanese culture while being entertaining. I do wish people could have acted with more care for others, or even done a little research beforehand, but it looked like most people had a good time and maybe even learned something new. And as someone who has singlehandedly taken it on myself to attempt the same goal (which is a post for next time), I think the Morikami is doing a pretty decent job.