as a way to make sense of the upcoming tanabata festival, i think it is imperative to make some quick observations of the 4th of July celebration i saw yesterday.
first off, i drove 3.25 hours east to roanoke. mile after mile i realized how amazingly isolated it must be especially when things have to be sent there like food and other consumer goods. this is where my extended family lives. they are, just like japan, on an island.
once there, i heard about the events downtown. they were very sparse. the national anthem would be sung at 2. then the choir from the local summer outdoor drama, the lost colony, would sing. 3pm would start 3 contests. a) most decorative hat, b) most decorative bike, and c) most delicious pie. my daughter and i observed, and tried to predict, the first two. these, as we sat there on the bleachers in front of the old courthouse, seemed to be a celebration of not only American Spirit, but a chance for the community to build self esteem to the youngest of competitors. both the hat and bike winners appeared to be younger than my daughter. aside: i remember one summer my daughter competed. i remember thinking, “oh, i wish she would win. my daughter’s hat is the best.” she did not:(
we did not stick around for the judges of the 3 pies to make up their mind. but, i know how important some people believe in symbols of america. one being the american pie.
my daughter and i picked up a couple of paper fans. i took the opportunity to ask her if she knew about the japanese sensu. she said no. sensu is a kind of fan that has a scent to it. in fact, i was given a couple in the years i lived in japan. one of them boasts from okinawa.
after we left the bleachers we walked only a little and we saw the extent of the rest of the events. a few food stalls. one served pretzels, drinks, grilled food, shaved ice, and lemonade. another italian. there was one thing for the kids to do: a dunking booth. not much offered.
as we passed the event poster i noticed that there were only two more things to do before the evening’s fireworks. the first was karaoke. the second, a live band. the latter included members of the band i used to play with during high school basketball games. the group is now semi-professional. the former, because of the heat, as we walked home, started as an empty stage. how fitting. karaoke actually means empty orchestra in japanese.
this is the first year in a long time that i wore american colors. usually, when my ex-wife, daughter and i would attend the festivities i was animate about wearing something japanese. it was my way of being grateful for the former.
after a dinner of mashed potatoes, salad, and shrimp, my parents, daughter and i walked to the spot for the fireworks on festival island. it was on the way that i paid my tribute to the band. on the festival island we sat down and relaxed waiting for the national guard mini bands and wind ensemble to play. then, as the wind ensemble played the fireworks began. i commented to my daughter that if she had any ancestors in china that they were definitely awake now.
finally, as we walked home and i saw the massive crowd, i thought for a second i was back in japan going back to the train station after viewing the fireworks, and as my daughter held my hand, she reminded me of when i was a child growing up on how i used to watch the traffic jam outside my bedroom window.