Perry goes to festival day!

Dear bear friends:

There's only one bad thing about a festival day: sore paws!

We woke to Nagoya, a mid-sized city in Japan. It was a holiday, and a festival day, and for the Symphony, it was a free day a day in which there is no travel and no concert. Time to enjoy Nagoya!

The sun was bright and the air cool. We stepped out of our hotel to join the happy people walking on the street. Because of the holiday, children did not wear school uniforms. I was interested to see that Japanese children dress very much like my American friends: overalls, jeans and T-shirts, and Nikes. I felt very much at home as I bowed to the doorman when we left the hotel.

Soon, I was treated to an even stronger reminder of home. For those bear friends who may not know it, Miss Cynthia, Doctor Steve and I live in a small city in Eastern Washington State. Our house sits on a hill looking at the place where the Yakima River joins the Columbia River. Because there are three small cities lined up along the Columbia River we call our home "The

Tri-Cities, Washington." Many good things to eat are grown there: cherries, asparagus, and most of all, potatoes.

Back in Nagoya, Miss Cynthia, Doctor Steve and I reached the central city square. It's a park, with a big fountain and many trees. Around the square, small food booths offered delicious snacks for sale. Here were grilled meats and fish, and over here, fried rice. Other booths sold noodles or bowls of soup.

"Look," said Miss Cynthia, "french fries!" There among the Japanese delicacies were good old American french fries. A nice man would fry them, fresh and hot. "Shall we buy some?" she asked.

We walked up to the booth, brightly curtained in red and yellow. Suddenly, Miss Cynthia squeaked. "Look!" she said, "They're selling our potatoes! Here! In Japan!" Doctor Steve and I looked behind the counter, and there were boxes and boxes of potatoes . . . from Tri-Cities, Washington! "Lamb's Special Export Potatoes" from our hometown firm, Lamb-Weston.

"Miss Cynthia," I said, "don't we have friends at Lamb-Weston?" "Indeed we do, Perry Bear," Miss Cynthia said. "Miss Andrea and Miss Erin's daddy works for Lamb-Weston, and he'll be delighted to hear that we had some of his potatoes in Nagoya, Japan!"

The potato man didn't speak English, so he couldn't understand why we were so excited, why we pointed to his boxes of potatoes. Good-naturedly, he fried our portion of french fries, and good-naturedly, he posed for a picture with his boxes of potatoes and with me!

The french fries were delicious as are all Tri-Cities french fries! Imagine, eating french fries from home, so very far from home. I shook my furry head. The world is a small place!

Everything was all in a bustle, preparing for the festival. Workers taped down large sections of carpet on a dance platform. A stage was being erected, and dancers rehearsed to the music of Japanese instruments. Booths selling sake, or rice wine, food snacks and portable telephones rose around the festival ground. We walked everywhere to watch, staying out of the way of the busy, hurrying workers.

The festival would not start until nightfall. Everyone was excited! We decided to return to our hotel and rest until the activites began. As we were walking through the lobby, we saw Mr. Smiley, our Japanese travel consultant. Yes, Mr. Smiley does smile a lot!

Mr. Smiley explained we would be seeing a Festival of Lanterns. The dancers we'd seen practicing in jeans and sneakers would wear beautiful kimonos and would dance with lighted lanterns on their heads! Unfortunately, Mr. Smiley's English wasn't up to the job of explaining why the festival was being held. I'm afraid our Japanese wasn't up to the job of asking questions, either!

After a nap, we returned to the city square. Night had fallen, and many happy people had gathered. The food booths and sake booths were doing brisk business. "Look up, Perry!" Doctor Steve said. There, above our head, was a modern touch: a laser beam glowed from the stage all the way to the top of a towering building, blocks away. It was beautiful, green and bright against the night sky.

The dance was beginning! Everyone gathered around the dancing square. Miss Cynthia made two older Japanese ladies stand in front of us; Americans are taller people, and Doctor Steve's broad shoulders were blocking their view. Many people with cameras gathered close, to get good photographs of the dance.

As we watched, over a hundred Japanese ladies walked in small quick steps onto the dance platform. They wore beautiful kimonos. On their feet were special socks with a split between the big toe and the other toes, allowing them to wear traditional wooden clog shoes. The kimonos and wooden clogs require the wearer to take very small steps; quick and light and graceful. On each dancer's head swayed a beautiful Japanese lantern.

On the stage, a singer and Japanese musicians were seated. The crowd quieted, as one by one, the dancers lit the lantern on the person before them. The light glowed and grew as more and more lanterns were lit.

The music begins! The dancers began an intricate dance, full of small gestures, measured bows, delicate steps. The line of dancers stretched like a coiled serpent across the dance area. The singer sang, a song of sadness and longing. The instruments plucked out the plaintive melody. The line of dancers moved in slow circles.

We watched the dancers near us with great interest. Some were young girls, nervous and uncertain of their movements but they tried very hard and did very well. Middle-aged women were the surest dancers, forming the intricate poses with ease and grace. Miss Cynthia and I smiled at one dancer, quite old. Snowy haired, she was bent with age, tiny and doll-like. Even though

her movements were slower, and she sometimes lagged behind the rest, it was clear she enjoyed taking part in the dance. Miss Cynthia said she probably danced this festival dance many, many times in her life, and we were privileged to share in her performance today.

After the dance, a men's drum troupe took the stage, dancing with fire and vigor No small, delicate movements here! Even young boys danced with male energy and strength.

All about, the crowd gathered, happy and polite. One booth did brisk business, selling vibrating recliners and rolling foot massagers. Tired festival-goers lined up to relax in the row of chairs. Young girls giggled as their feet were massaged by the rotating footrests.

All too soon, it was time for Perry Bear Ewer to go back to the hotel, to bed. I fell asleep, sore paws and all, dreaming of the beautiful Dance of the Lanterns. I like Japan!

Your bear friend,

Perry Bear Ewer

P.S. Thank you to all those, children and dolls and bears, who have sent me your haiku. Keep them coming! When we return to our home and our big computer, Miss Cynthia will gather all our poems together and share them with everyone. We have many talented writers among our bear friends!

Perry's Travels: