I WAS watching a young Japanese guy reach out for an apigigi from the Hula Girl booth. It was obviously his first time to try it because he peeled it all the way down before taking a tentative bite. I saw the surprise registered on his face as he obviously liked what he ate, took another bite and another until there was no more.
Turning around, he talked excitedly to three other companions and they all trooped back to the Hula Girl stall for more. When that guy goes back to Japan, I’m sure the taste of apigigi will stay in his memories of Saipan.
At the next booth, a little local girl was concentrating as she tried to throw a ball into boxes with drawings of Japanese costumes. She squealed with delight when her ball landed in the box with the drawing of a girl wearing a Japanese kimono.
Immediately, she was whisked into the back of the stall and Japanese assistants donned a kimono on her for picture taking, a photo I’m sure she will treasure.
American Memorial Park’s usually serene atmosphere was transformed into one colorful, lively and spirited ground as over a thousand people— a mix of young businessmen from Japan and island residents stamped their feet in time with the lively beating of the drums.
By sunset, the friendship party hosted for the visitors for a cultural exchange was in full progress.
The locals got a taste of Japanese culture through the dances they presented, games and entertainment.
Kids were delighted in playing all games the visitors introduced to them.
In exchange, the over 800 visitors got a glimpse of the island life as cultural dance groups and Saipan’s dynamic Awaodori Team presented their winning dance steps.
Right after the presentations, everybody rushed to the food booths where you get to try a mix of unlimited Japanese and local specialties, unlimited beverages including beer, juices, soda and bottled water, as long as you have a yellow band on your hand— your passport to the food stalls.
All too soon, the party has to end, with everybody sated and happy. The visitors went back to Japan via the Fuji Maru cruise ship yesterday afternoon. Island officials who welcomed the guests said “till we meet again.” Sayonara.