Last Sunday a Japanese friend invited us to a ‘Ninja parade’ organized by the local Council. Our 7-year old son goes to his school’s Aikido club and loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so the invitation was accepted faster than you can say ‘Shredder’.
On Sunday morning we took the tube to a central area of Osaka. For once, we didn’t struggle to find the venue – the van outside the place kind of gave it away (see photo below).
The van was something many 7-year old boys would love to have when they are old enough to drive, although, I am not sure how the boy’s date would feel if he showed up to pick the girl up on a first date. Then again, one of my boyfriends (now husband) turned up in a knackered maroon VW Polo to pick me up on our first date. I can assure you that it wasn’t exactly the most graceful journey I’ve experienced, and actually, I would have probably preferred him showing up with a giant ninja glued on the roof of the Polo. At least that would have distracted me from the fact that I was making my way into town in a maroon cap with wheels.
Anyway, we went into the Council building to get Ninja outfits for our 7-year old son and 3-year old daughter. Somehow my husband managed to convince me that I should wear one too. I am obviously too easily talked into taking part in things that I shouldn’t, given that rather than looking like a ninja, I looked more like a chubby English plumber in an unflattering red boiler suit (see photos below). In fact, I was surprised that they had a ninja outfit that was big enough to fit me – or to rephrase this – I was surprised that I managed to squeeze my European body into their petite outfits. For some reason my ninja outfit didn’t come with the headwear – it came with just a headband. Without the head gear I really did look like a plumber so I borrowed a friend’s 1-year old child’s head gear, which, of course, was too small for me, but better than just a headband (at least it covered some of my face for anonymity).
The parade took place in a covered shopping street.
There was a female Ninja brass band at the top end of the parade, playing brass band-type music. I am not sure how the brass band music was relevant to the Ninja parade – something like Mission Impossible music would have been a better match with the event, but brass band music it was.
The children and their parents dressed as ninjas followed the band while the shoppers and spectators took photos and were amused by the little ninjas (and an European plumber in her slightly too small red boiler suit!). The fact that we were the only Western family taking part in the parade meant that our children and unfortunately also me in my boiler suit attracted quite a lot of attention. For example, our children’s photos were taken for next year’s advertising material, and we were filmed at least twice by a news crew (see photo below). Good job I was wearing a mask.
Along the way, there were several ninja tasks for the children, like blowing darts through a tube and throwing shuriken (metal ninja stars) at a target (see photos below). It is funny how the Japanese are extremely health and safety conscious with many things, for instance, there are signs everywhere to instruct people not to get their fingers trapped between sliding doors, but they give a real metal shuriken to a 7-year old to independently throw at a target.
There were stalls in which the children were given swords and shuriken made of balloons. I was also given a balloon, but it wasn’t a sword or a shuriken. They gave me an apple (see photo). Perhaps the guy in the stall was giving me a subtle hint about my appearance in the boiler suit. Or perhaps he was suggesting that my children should practice their shuriken throwing William Tell style.
All of the participants gathered at a local shine, where a group photo was taken (see photo below). It doesn’t look there were that many people there, dressed as ninjas. I think some of the children and their parents had got lost on the way or were perhaps using the shrine’s toilets (as you would if out and about with small children) while the photo was taken. Alternatively, maybe half of them were in the local hospital after shuriken and blow-dart related accidents. In any case, the photo below illustrates the survivors.
We had a great day. The kids loved the ninja outfits, the ninja tasks and the balloons. I, on the other hand, loved the moment when I could finally get out of my boiler suit and back into my own clothes.
Next year it will be my husband’s turn to look like Super Mario.