Hiroshima Sake Festival

by Dana Leaming

We had travelled a good four hours, ingested a solid breakfast for absorption purposes, made contact with other API members and we were in the line!!

It had been a successful start to our sake festival activities. We being API members from block 9. Ryan Hata, Sachi Kaneko, myself and our delightful friend and host, Brianna Lum.

It was 10:30 on a Saturday morning and we were waiting to get into the Saijo sake festival. I had been to this festival before, but this year my counterparts and I had a mission. Meet and get to know other API’s around Japan and discuss various issues regarding our API status and……

Drink some sake of course.

Now I’m not going to beat around the bush here. It was a sake festival and there was a ten hour nomihodai. If you have assumed there was a good helping of inebriation, then you would be correct in that assumption. However, what I love about this festival is that the promise of all-day sake and conversation entices people from all around Japan and the world. You meet the weird, the wonderful, and everyone in between, and furthermore the cross cultural exchange is off the chain.

And isn’t this what we want as people with our own cultural perspective living in a country with a very strong sense of their culture and meeting people from various different cultures?

That’s a lot of culture in just one sentence.

So I was excited for all of this to bounce together in the middle of a park, in the middle of Hiroshima, in the middle of a whole bunch of sake.

One of the first memorable moments was my introduction to the API block 10 leader. At this point I had only met him via Google chats during our API meetings and we were all looking forward to getting to know the faces we had seen through the screen.

 It was a rather abrupt introduction. I was in a casual conversation with my friends and then


A colourful, rainbow hat-wearing, sake-bearing human jumped into our midst without warning.

He put out his hand and with great conviction loudly proclaimed, “I’M NICK!”

One of the single, most entertaining, introductions I have encountered, and thus I had met Nick, a bubbly Japanese-Mexican-American, who was as hilarious as he was friendly. The conversation was fleeting as he gleefully leapt off to the next group of people, but meeting someone whose major mode of transport is bouncing, and knowing that they represent a group you want to champion, is all the more heartening.  

Further down the track, I met a Japanese national with an interesting tattoo proudly displayed on his arm. I can’t remember his name, so I’m going to call him “man-with-nice-arms.”

Man-with-nice-arms had a different tattoo to most, but to my eye I knew it had a distinctly Pacific origin. It wasn’t Māori but maybe Samoan or Hawaiian.

 I was intrigued!

Most Japanese don’t have tattoos let alone a unique one from a different culture.

So I approached him with the intention of discussing not only the tattoo but his interest in the culture. It turns out it was Hawaiian but my lack of Japanese and his lack of English stopped the conversation fairly short. However I think he was rather chuffed that one, I noticed his tattoo was distinctly Pacific of some sort and two, I tried to talk to him about the Pacific.

It’s oddly comforting to have someone from a vastly different culture take interest in cultures and countries that you’re inherently linked to. I am of Māori descent and we are a rather rare culture that hail from New Zealand, but it is known that many Pacific cultures once originated from Hawaiki, now known as Hawaii. I mean that’s a rather simplified version of events but because of this, the similarities between the islands are rather vast. When I find common links here in Japan, it fascinates me and also reminds me of home and my people.

But I have to say one of the most interesting things about the day was a conversation that I was a part of.

Ryan and I saw a friend we hadn’t seen in a while and promptly introduced her to Sachi, which then started off a good old catch up. The conversation quickly turned to API issues.

What really caught my attention was when Sachi asked the others, “What gen are you?” Everyone started sharing their generational status. “Fourth gen,” “5th gen Chinese, 4th gen Japanese,” “2nd gen,” and so on. I found myself feeling a little left out so I awkwardly blurted out.

 “I’m first.. Wait no second? Maybe like 0 gen?….”

I was referring to my Māori status in my country but it really didn’t translate.

Everyone looked at me with looks that can only be described as, whaa?

But it made me think…

In our API meetings we have extensive conversations about identity and what it means to us as API JET’s or just an API in our own countries. I find it interesting and engaging that there are so many similarities between my own experiences and other API’s. I share a lot with Ryan and Sachi and we have conversations at length about similar situations that we have experienced because of the minority groups we belong to. But in between the sake and the mountains of people I realised I had completely forgotten that both Ryan and Sachi’s ancestors once immigrated.

They have a homeland to go back to.

My ancestors are the people of my homeland.

Being mixed-race myself, identity, how I balance my role as a Pakeha and a Māori, is a huge part of my life and one that I hold very close. However, after meeting other APIs, it becomes very apparent that although we struggle and muse over the same issue of identity, it manifests itself in vastly different ways.

Sachi must balance being a mixed-race Japanese American in America, and then being an American in Japan.

Her struggle for identity poses questions I didn’t even know I had to ask.

And I think this is what the API group comes down to. Learning from each other.

We have a unique opportunity where we happen to be in the same country experiencing many similar issues with a unique personal perspective. People exchange stories with me that make me question how I think about cultural identity and how it applies to others. At this junction in my life, I am broadening my view of what it means to find your cultural identity, and it is, without a doubt, the cultural diversity in the API and ALT community that facilitates this personal development.

And after all that deep thinking and sake, we eventually went home at 9pm because we are old.

Don’t judge us! We are in our mid twenties!

It’s an effort to put on socks without wanting to go back to bed these days.

Anyway, as we lay on our futons and ate the spam that had been left out in the kitchen earlier that morning, we looked back on the day. The events of the festival had left us exhausted, but happy.

We laughed our way through the stories about the inebriated antics that may have taken place and we lamented over the chocolate bananas that we missed out on.

It was one of those great days that pop up in the haze that is work and trying to be an adult.

And with that I leave you with the last picture of the day we took just before bedtime, which as it turns out no one was ready for.


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