Thursday, September 24, 2015

第25回星蘭祭 Seiransai 2015 @ Waseda Shibuya: Back for Seconds!

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It was that time of the year again. The time when the only Japanese senior high school in Singapore would open its doors to the public. Students holding placards and handing out flyers would greet you warmly as you stepped into the school. Colourful decorations adorned the classrooms, transforming the school into a vibrant playground for two days.

BACK FOR SECONDS

After attending Waseda Shibuya Senior High Singapore's annual Seiransai school festival last year, I went home with many great memories. My second time attending this year was even more enjoyable.

The school was transformed into a vibrant playground abuzz with activity over the weekend

The 25th festival's theme was "Dive into Japan". which saw many exhibits centered around both modern and traditional Japanese culture.

The poster for the 25th Seiransai, designed by a student of the school

This year, I went with Eugene, a close friend. We both enjoyed ourselves tremendously this year and I'm sure those who went would agree too!

This year's mega-sized foyer display was a castle, a significant symbol in Japan's history and culture

A cohort of students has graduated but the similar warmth, hospitality and friendliness I had experienced the year before was upheld. It felt good to be back in school again.

Not to mention that I managed to achieve the goal which had I set for myself last year. More on that later.

Impressions of our first Seiransai in 2014:


MEIDO CULTURE

We arrived around 12 noon and hurried immediately to our first stop, the Meido Cafe by Class 2-A. Situated on the second level, it wasn't very difficult to locate as there was a fairly long queue for the popular attraction.

Long queue for the maid cafe

Posters designed by the students featuring them in their maid and butler outfits decorated the exterior of the cafe. There were also photos of the guava jelly, hot cocoa and pancakes on the menu.

Posters designed by the students promoting their maid cafe

We made the careless mistake of queuing midway before we realising that we had to purchase tickets prior to entry. Thus, we had to rejoin the queue again. We ordered a guava jelly each at the recommendation of the students.

As we entered, two students dressed as a maid and butler greeted us warmly, "Okaerinasai, goshujin-sama, (Welcome home, master)" and our lovely meido (Japanese for 'maid') led us to our table.

I couldn't remember the exact words she said next but it was something about photo-taking being permitted and waiting for the food to arrive shortly.

Names of the various meidos and butlers on the blackboard (probably everyone in the class)

When the food arrived, we said a magical spell to command the food to turn delicious. "Oishi ku nare! (Turn delicious!)"

As I bit into the guava jelly, my first reaction was "Wow! This is really delicious!". The guava flavour was intense and the jelly was neither too firm nor too squishy. It was of just the right texture, consistency and sweetness.

The stuff dreams are made of

We have no idea what guava jelly they used but attributing it to the fact that the magic spell had worked, Eugene and I wiped our plates clean in no time!

Next, our meido asked if we would like to take a picture with her. We headed to the elevated platform at the back of the cafe and took a photo together before she thanked us and showed us out.

Moe moe kyun

Each customer was permitted to sit at the table for a maximum of 10 minutes. However, I think we left in under five. Nevertheless, it was still a pretty interesting first-time experience for us.

"You might get a chance to join the event if you are lucky." We were not!

We thought that it was very thoughtful of the students to come up with this concept and give the masses a taste of Japan's Akihabara pop culture.

In fact, we even tried to patronise the meido cafe again around three-plus, intending to sample the pancakes this time around and meet a different meido at the same time too (there were so many of them!). However, I think it was a bit late and they had ceased the sale of tickets then.

What cafe concept will it be next year?


ENNICHI

Looking to make the most out of our short four-and-a-half hours, we looked around for our next activity and settled on the Ennichi exhibit by class 1-A. Speaking of Ennichi, I attended a similar exhibit by class 2-C last year too!

4 games in the Ennichi exhibit- each supposedly representing one of the four seasons in Japan

Both the common carnival ring toss game and Fukuwarai, a traditional Japanese game where you have to place face parts onto a featureless face while being blindfolded, made their return.

Eugene playing Quiots- he managed to land a few rings

The most challenging game would be the bouncy ball scooping though, a twist on the traditional kingyo sukui (goldfish scooping), which is prohibited in Singapore.

It was no mean feat trying to scoop mini floating balls using a poi (paper scooper), which would tear easily after coming into contact with water.

The game required fast hands and good judgement

Lastly, there was also a game where you had to throw balls through holes at varying heights to score points. It happened to be the game which I was most adept at (I failed miserably at quoits) so I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Struck out!

Ennichi, which means "holy day", are special days where Japanese people visit the temple or shrine to pray. Festivals and street fairs are often held at the places too.

We felt that class 1-A managed to bring the spirit of Ennichi to life in Singapore and we are looking forward to the next Ennichi exhibit at our third seiransai next year too!

Ennichi again next year?


JIDAIGEKI

Our next stop was a particularly interesting one and probably the highlight of our day. Last year, I watched a well-produced St. Valentine's Day drama by the students from Class 1-B.

This year, the students from Class 2-C brought us a riveting and enthralling jidaigeki (Japanese period drama) featuring samurais in it.

A samurai drama of swordplay, time travel, history and culture peppered with humour

It tells the story of a modern-day boy who was somehow transported back in time to the Edo period and finds himself caught in the conflict between the shinsengumi (Shogun's samurai police) and the enemies of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Seems like time travel is a really popular concept these days, showing up in recent movies such as last year's mind-blowing Predestination, this year's abhorrent Terminator Genisys and even this senior high school production.

The lead actor and the lead "actress" for the play

We were really captivated by the play as it boasted a good mix of humour, dialogue and action (pretend swordplay scenes). That's not to mention the use of realistic props and costumes donned by the actors, giving the play a high-quality production feel.

The acting was commendable too and you could see the effort the students had put in as you sat and watched it.  I heard from another friend later that they actually had rotating casts as he kept gushing about the very pretty lead actress in the one he had watched.

The cast of the riveting jidaigeki

Seeing how the opportunity to watch a play staged by students does not come by very often, I am eagerly looking forward to what the students have in store for next year's festival, having been entertained by them last year and this year!


RESTAURANT OF MANY ORDERS

Intrigued by a group of students dressed in yukatas sporting cat ears and holding placards with the words "Restaurant Wildcat House", along with a long queue and an impressively-decorated exterior, we headed to the Japanese Literature exhibit by Class 2-B on the third floor.

Never have I seen such a long queue for a Literature Museum before

"2-B Museum" was written in large, bold words on the wall outside. "Why does a Literature Museum have such a long queue?" we wondered confusingly as we waited in line. Little did we know what was in store...

A queue for another queue!

After queuing for a long 20 or so minutes, we were ushered into a dark room together with other visitors, where we first watched a video. It introduced "The Restaurant of Many Orders", a place which two lost and hungry hunters came across in a deep forest.

"Plump parties and young parties are especially welcome."

Next, two students dressed in yukatas wielding makeshift bows invited us into the next section, which was the restaurant. Inside, we watched another video as the students, posing as the hunters, acted out the narration in the video in front of us.

"Please leave your weapons here." The hunters were instructed before entering a door and did so.

"Please cover your body in miso". They were told before entering another door and did likewise.

"Please spray this perfume in your hair". The perfume smelled oddly like vinegar, the hunters thought.

"Please take some salt and rub it all over your body." Now, the hunters were beginning to notice that something was amiss.

Just as they were about to escape, they realised grimly that they were in fact, THE ORDERS themselves but it was too late. The entire room shook and a picture of a gargantuan, monstrous cat flashed on the screen to a cacophony of cackles in the background.

We were led to the next section for the epilogue before the session ended.

Students acting out the epilogue for the exhibit- a rare interactive museum experience

It was a most unique exhibit indeed- an interactive live-action experience incorporating the use of multimedia aids and based off a piece of literature.

Later, we found out that it was based off one of Japanese author Miyazawa Kenji's most famous short stories, "The Restaurant of Many Orders (注文の多い料理店)", published way back in the 1920s. It is apparently read by all Japanese students in elementary school too.

The Japanese Literature exhibit was conceptualised based on a short story by Miyazawa Kenji

The classic literature has also been adapted into many short films and animations and translated to English. It will definitely be interesting to encounter more of such unorthodox exhibits in the future.


A short animation based on "The Restaurant of Many Orders"


COOKING CLUB

I had heard that the cooking club would be selling some tasty creations of theirs and had been looking forward to it even before the festival. After all, what's better than some hand-baked-with-love pastries?

We went in search of the cooking club next and found their tiny, little booth at the school foyer. My first impression was that the club members were so cute! Honestly, I would be lying if I said I didn't think so.

I would totally join the cooking club!

I asked if I could take a picture with them and they agreed! That was the first picture of the day! On track for the goal of taking pictures with the students set last year.

Cooking Club is the best

Ball cookies, honey cookies and cupcakes were going for a dollar each. Unfortunately, the cocoa and green tea-flavoured selections were sold out as we went quite late (it was around 2.50pm then and the school had opened at 9.30am).

Delectable chestnut cupcake baked by the Cooking Club members

I got the last chestnut cupcake while Eugene bought the olive honey cookies. They also had the plain ball cookies left which we didn't buy and only came to regret much later.

The love which the students had poured into making the cupcake underscored the first bite. The rich and aromatic chestnut flavour crept in afterwards. The golden-brown outer layer had a nice baked sensation to it while the inside was soft, moist and savoury.

Look at that golden-brown baked goodness!

Alas, it was only one cup cake. However, I think that it easily beats any of those expensive ones sold at premium pastry shops. It has that personal touch which you just cannot find anywhere else.

We will definitely be back earlier next year to try more of their delectable creations! Thank you for the photos and delectable cupcakes if you're reading this! Hope to see you again!

Yummy!


MOMOTARO

After savouring the mouthwatering cupcakes, we rushed to catch the "Japanese Old Story" exhibit by Class 1-C.

It was a screening of their very own self-made video, based on a popular hero of Japanese folklore, Momotaro (Peach Taro). Momotaro came to Earth inside a giant peach which was found floating down a river by an old woman. He would leave his home to fight a band of marauding oni (ogres) years later.

Class 1-C's exhibit was a self-shot short film about the popular Japanese folklore hero Momotamo

The video was broken down into 6 short episodes, followed by a short self-made commercial after each airing. Some of the commercials were particularly funny, parodying common Japanese ads.

The best though, must've been the one starring a group of male students, imitating well-known Japanese dance act World Order's choreographed robotic dances.


WORLD ORDER's hit video, "MACHINE CIVILIZATION"

As for the video itself, we had an enthralling watching the students' own production. It reminded us of the time when we used to work on our video journalism projects in secondary school so it was a nice time of reminiscing and appreciation.

The directing and acting was laudable, especially the part where they closed in on Momotaro's features and introduced him in the first episode. However, the soundtrack might have proved to be too repetitive in the latter parts, considering how Queen's "We Will Rock You" opened every episode.



Judging by the warm reception and the loud laughter, the audience undoubtedly enjoyed themselves a lot though. Class 1-C had the most hospitable and friendly students too. They were so welcoming and inviting that we could not not vote for them and voted for them we did.

I want to watch movies on this massive TV!


HERE AND THERE

It was around 3.20pm when the video finished airing. Most of the popular exhibits (Haunted House, Escape Game, Ninja Maze, Tea Ceremony) had stopped accepting visitors by then.


We made our way down to the foyer to cast our votes for the best exhibits and submit our completed stamp sheets (you could redeem some sweets by collecting all three stamps from figures roaming around the school).

At the same time, we attempted a simple quiz and got ourselves some Haribo sweets. Two female students dressed in dazzling floral-patterned yukatas were manning the booth and I asked if I could take a picture of them before taking a picture with them.


We had a short chat and I found out something interesting- they study English for approximately seven hours a week, which is around the same duration we study it in our public schools. I didn't ask if they take their other classes in Japanese or English though I am guessing it's probably the former.


Subsequently, we took the stairs back to the second and third storey to check if there was anything interesting that we had not participated in and could still take part in.

Apparently, there was a jigsaw puzzle which had enlisted the help of visitors to complete it

There wasn't much so we decided to tour the classrooms. It was interesting to take a peek into their daily lives by looking at photos of their overseas trips, sports carnivals and their school assignments. Photography was prohibited.

Photos of visitors who had helped to piece the jigsaw puzzle together

We headed to the sports hall next, which we had overlooked because it was located in a different building. We managed to find the Judo Room on the second level and tucked our heads inside to catch a glimpse of Waseda's Sty☆lish (anisong band?) performing their final song around four.

The gymnasium - tucked away in another corner of the shcool


THE FINAL HOUR

After which, Eugene went to meet a friend while I went in search of people to talk to, take photos with and exhibits that were still open.

I met another friend who had taken a fair number of photos with the students. As you may have known, we here at XDantheManX Online are huge fans of anything cute. Not to be outmatched...

These girls, who another friend and I met along the corridor, took a picture with us too! They were quite friendly!

They took a picture with us using their phone too!

Time was running out and I shamelessly went to ask if I could take a photo with this girl.

パシャパシャ! (Snap! Snap!)

Finally, I had one last photo with the cast of the samurai drama! It was the cast who had acted in the play that I had watched. They were gathered downstairs at the foyer. I didn't manage to find any members of the other cast which my friend had caught.

The shinsengumi actor on my right- his lines were funny

In case you were wondering if we had taken our lunch at the school, we did not. From what I had heard from a friend though, the cafeteria had been transformed into Edokko Restaurant again.

Last year's Edokko Restaurant. Maybe it looks just a little different this year?

The menu was the same as last year's too so I'll just reuse last year's pictures. Read my review of the food from last year.

Mains - Teriyaki chicken donburi, Curry Rice and Salmon Chirashi (my pick)

The cafeteria food is good though. Reasonably-priced, appetising and value-for-money. I envy the students. Would definitely have eaten there again if we had reached at 9.30am. Maybe next year.

So many decadent desserts! Tiramisu, Strawberry Custard, Choco Pudding, Maccha Azuki and Pudding


LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR

With that, it was the end of another incredible seiransai. Wonderful experiences and marvellous people made for an unforgettable time. Thank you to all the students and teachers, and the school for their dedication and hard work!

The magnificent calligraphy piece done by the students during their calligraphy performance earlier in the morning

I will definitely be attending again next year, without a doubt. Looking forward to meeting the second-years and first-years who will become third-years and second-years (who will be taking charge of the major attractions such as the haunted house next year) again.

The haunted house - didn't mange to try it again this year

I will have to come early for more time to try out more exhibits next year. That is, unless I'm invited to the soft opening on Saturday. I wonder how does one get an invite...

Loot from Seiransai this year- sweets (we ate some) and a bouncy ball

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this post and that those who went had as much fun as I did while those who did not will be compelled to attend next year!

Lastly, thank you for all the photos. Let's take more next year! See you next year for seiransai roundup number three!

Keep reading XDantheManX Online and Like our Facebook page for more updates on Japanese culture events in Singapore!

Thanks for reading! See you next year!


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*Note: I had asked for everyone's permission to take photos this year. However, if you wish for a photo in which you may have appeared in to be taken down, kindly drop us a message via the Contact form or Facebook page and I'll remove it.


Impressions of our first Seiransai in 2014: