Tuesday, 5 June 2018

"Running as One" in Susono, Japan - An article by Dave Hunt

A few years back I was handed a t-shirt after running in Melbourne’s Marathon Festival. “Run as One” it announced. I didn’t think much about how I should interpret the message, but after running the Fuji Susono Half Marathon earlier this month, I believe the community of Susono can better lay claim to the slogan.

Melbourne’s huge event is run efficiently thanks to the employment of a large and expensive event management corporation, but the personal touch is missing. Susono attracted just over three thousand runners and presented them with something extra. Involvement in something that the community makes happen.

Susono draws on its resources fully. School kids collect timing chips and print out certificates, grandmas register runners; businesses provide transport; the mayor congratulates runners; soldiers make soup, dads lay out signage, a local doctor runs a first aid room. Glitches occur (rain seems to have affected the announcement electronics at some stage) but runners can, and do, take inspiration from the extent to which people work on making the event enjoyable.

Two further examples include the family group pounding out rhythms on the Taiko drums during the pre-start festivities and the commitment of the “guest” runners (a pair of elite female national runners - one who ran the out-and-back 10km event while verbally encouraging every athlete going past and personally thanking every roadside spectator for their support, and the other who waited in the rain at the finish line to congratulate every runner as they struggled home up to two hours after the leaders had come in).

Akiyama san & Family Taiko Drumming Group

The negatives?... There is one observation that can’ go without comment: of the dozen or so local government officials and sponsor representatives presented to runners and spectators during opening ceremonies, none was female. Each time I visit Japan I look forward to seeing greater gender equality and each time I find something that shows this issue has further to improve.

Dave Hunt with his certificate

As for the runners, we felt supported, encouraged and celebrated. We felt….. “as one”.

Dave pictured with Mayor Kenji Takamura

My thanks to:

l  The People of Susono
l  Peter Patterson and the Frankston Susono Friendship Association for their kind introduction to the Susono community
l  Kuniko Tsuji (Seki city) and Naoki Yamaguchi (Susono Marathon Organizing Committee) for their assistance with entry into the event
l  Yoko Miyase (Susono Overseas Friendship Association) for her exquisite communication
l  Aiko Nakayama (SOFA Exchange Promotion Committee) for her friendship and delicious obento
l  Mayor Kenji Takamura for graciously agreeing to meet and wearing his snappy kangaroo neck tie

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Japanese Garden - Early Winter Update

It's hard to believe that just 4 weeks ago we had just finished packing up after our amazingly successful 2018 Japanese Festival. A number of those who attended were able to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the Japanese Garden with (most) of the leaves still intact, but definitely turning that familiar autumn colour.

So it shouldn't have been such a surprise to head down to the garden this week and discover the brown and red carpet laying over much of the place! A few bin loads later and the place is looking a little tidier ...







Wednesday, 9 May 2018


Article by Jess Hast - jemhast.com

Last Sunday, Frankston locals were treated to a taste of Japanese culture in their own city. The Frankston High School Senior Campus was adorned with flags, banners and torii gates to welcome visitors to a day of energy, excitement and fun!

The Frankston Japanese Festival is held biennially by the Frankston Susono Friendship Association (FSFA), a volunteer group operating the sister city relationship on behalf of Frankston City Council. The Festival is held to celebrate the relationship between Frankston and Susono which was established in 1982. FSFA and their Japanese counterparts SOFA, endeavor to provide their respective communities with valuable opportunities for cultural exchanges.

Japanese performers from around Victoria put on an unforgettable show for festival goers. The talented and laid-back Ichimadin group played beautiful music from the shores of Okinawa, all while making Hawaiian shirts look cool. Wadaiko Rindo, a Japanese drumming group, put on a stirring performance on the taiko drums three times throughout the day. Richmond Tigers fans may have recognized Wadaiko Rindo as the drummers who rouse the crowd at the beginning of Tigers home games.

The Aiki Shuren Dojo from Mt Martha put on a martial arts demonstration for everyone to enjoy. The school specializes in aikidō, a modern martial art focusing on defending oneself without injuring an attacker.

Visitors found tranquility watching the tea ceremony performed by Ritsuko Greenwood and the ladies from Chado Urasenke Tankokai. The tea ceremony is a centuries-old classical Japanese art form which creates a peaceful, refined atmosphere. The group hosted three ceremonies across the day which were extremely popular with visitors. Miho Araki of ebisu design also hosted calligraphy sessions where visitors could have their name written in the beautiful and exquisite brushstrokes of Japanese script.

For those who prefer hands-on activities, there was plenty on offer. The ikebana (flower arranging) workshop run by the Ohara Ikebana group provided visitors with the chance to learn about traditional aesthetics and beautiful blooms. Etsuka of Harapeko Kids showed everyone how to make healthy, delicious and cute character lunchboxes at the kyaraben workshop using ingredients such as rice, seaweed and veggies.

Visitors were given the opportunity to don a traditional Japanese yukata, a colourful garment often worn to celebrations, tied with a sash known as an obi. The Japanese Garden provided a stunning backdrop for people to take photos while looking resplendent in their yukata. The garden was presented beautifully by the FSFA team with particular efforts from Vice Chairperson and determined gardener Simon Hast.

Younger festival goers flocked to the Children’s Activities room which was run by teachers and students from Frankston High, Derinya Primary, and other local schools. Kids could get creative with Japan-inspired crafts such as designing a fan, making a tonbo dragonfly, origami and a festival colouring sheet. Playful types enjoyed a range of Japanese games including yo-yo water balloons, a fishing game, kendama, spinning tops and a sumo game. Activity cards were handed out to enthusiastic participants at the front gate which encouraged kids to explore the festival and collect stamps upon completing a range of activities.

The Schools Parade gives students who are studying Japanese at local schools the opportunity to participate in festival culture. Students from Balnarring, Derinya, Dromana and Overport Primary Schools, plus Frankston High School were a riot of colour and sound as they paraded through the Festival. Shortly afterwards, the Festival’s first Beyblade knockout tournament was a smash hit with well over 80 kids entering. Beyblade is a Japanese phenomenon much like a high-tech version of spinning tops which takes place in a special arena stadium. Congratulations to Oliver from Balnarring Primary who was the tournament winner!

Community groups joined the Festival with intriguing displays featuring their crafts. The Waverley Bonsai Group displayed their gorgeous bonsai plants for all to appreciate. The Australian Japanese Model Rail Group showed off the intricate details of their model train lines which were greatly admired by boys of all ages. The Melbourne Shōgi Club attended and taught locals about shōgi, Japan’s equivalent of chess as well as animal chess for children. FSFA also organized a virtual reality demonstration which allowed guests to slip on a VR headset and explore the city of Susono, minus the flight to Japan!

Stallholders selling various Japanese goods came together to create an exciting market experience. Visitors could buy anything from Japanese-style bread to eco-friendly beeswax wraps to cosplay cat ears. Stalls by Anna Japana, Baker Bears, Beez Whisper Eco Wraps, Ebisu Design, Have a Nice Day by Suzuki, Lupicia Fresh Tea, Mic Macs, Nekomimi Mode, Sachi Craft, SAORI Premium Sauces and SMILE added a pinch of colour and a dash of smiles to the festival flavour.

If you missed out, don’t worry. The FSFA Japanese Festival will return in 2020 and will also welcome a delegation of visitors from Susono! Like Frankston Susono Friendship Association – FSFA on Facebook to get all the information about future events.

FSFA Chairperson Peter Patterson, Mayor Colin Hampton and Vice Consul-General Shota Tohara during the Opening Ceremony

Wadaiko Rindo Taiko Drumming Group performing during the Opening Ceremony

FSFA Vice-Chairperson Simon Hast, Vice Consul-General of Japan Shota Tohara, Sister Cities Australia Executive Committee Member Christina Despoteri, FSFA Chairperson Peter Patterson and Mayor Colin Hampton

FSFA Executive Committee Members Bev Hannan and Vic Webster

Ichimadin Okinawan Musical Group

Miho Araki creating her exquisite individual name cards in Japanese script

Jess Hast (Nekomimi Mode) and grandmother Denise

Frankston High School sushi rolls and drinks sales

Ladies of Chado Urasenke Tankokai (tea ceremony demonstrators) in our Japanese Garden

Frankston High School Flute Group

Soara and mum Miho fitting a yukata

Wadaiko Rindo entertained the crowds throughout the day with 3 breathtaking performances

Additional Festival images, photographed by John Heritage, can be viewed by clicking on the following dropbox link:

Dropbox Link Here!