YIFA’s annual Halloween party is our biggest event of the year in terms of participation, and, from what I can tell, the biggest event IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD in terms of preparation. History may tell you that the event started at 12:30 on Sunday 20th October 2019, but the prep started long before. In fact, our first meeting about the event was on *checks planner* August 27th...
At that meeting (with the international exchange division of the association) we finalised the theme of the year’s party. It was to be, with a nod to the Tokyo Olympics next year, the “Halloween Olympics in Yasu”. Like previous years we reserved the whole of a local community centre (Kitano) and were to decorate the main hall, as well as four separate rooms where children would come in groups to play games and receive trick-or-treat snacks. Guests were to bring their own favourite home-cooked foods ‘potluck style’, and, on top of that, some of the YIFA members spent the whole morning of the day preparing lovely food to add to the tables.
The procedure of the party was to be the same as previous years, but the details of the decorations etc were largely left down to us, and by ‘us’, I mean our Singaporean friend, Joan. Of course, Maki and I helped here and there, and did a lot of work preparing materials and such ready for the party, but, without exaggeration, 99% of the artistic work came from Joan.
For the separate rooms we decided to create different themes for each: monster, vampire, mummy and skeleton. Joan made huge faces for each theme…all out of recycled materials. I watched her work, and kept thinking to myself “this isn’t going to be very good”... ” this isn’t going to be very good”...then, eventually...”this looks amazing!!” I don’t have the creative imagination in my mind to see what something is going to look like, so I just couldn’t see what it was going to become as she was at work, but Joan absolutely has that skill. It was really a privilege to watch her, and it’s a real joy to watch someone do something that they are so skilled at.
And here's how they ended up...
For our Olympic theme (and to be able to hold a passable Olympic opening ceremony) we (i.e. Joan) were to make the Olympic Rings, masks of famous global leaders, a podium, an Olympic Torch and—with great difficulty—an Olympic cauldron.
It’s hard to know what to say about these items, apart from they were all very difficult to make in their own way. If I have to rank them in order of difficulty, (and I’m very aware that I don’t)… then here is that top 5:
5) podium … stacked up beer crates, with cardboard stuck in front. Cut by me (hurray me!), and made beautiful by Maki and Joan.
4) rings … Two sets…one big for the main hall, and one smaller set for the entrance... Once we were able to sketch out a passable circle (much more difficult than I thought!), this was more time-consuming than difficult. We also had to pop out to buy some paint to make sure we could have them the same colour as the real Olympic Rings. The making of the rings was more donkey-work than art work, so I was really able to come to the fore here…cutting badly, painting badly, I did a fair amount of work preparing them (along with Maki and super-volunteers Ota-san and Monika), and, after we’d all finished, all Joan had to do was make them look good.
3) Olympic Torch … It’s somewhat presumptuous for me to decide the difficulty of making this item. From my perspective this took no effort at all, by which I mean I did nothing at all towards it. Joan did all of this. She wanted to make a Halloween themed torch covered in jack-o-lanterns. Watching her at work—gluing plastic pumpkins to an old baseball bat—was another situation where I was thinking, “is this going to be good?”…”is this going to be good?”…”is this going to be good?”…then, eventually, ”yes, this is brilliant”. As soon as she had painted it, it looked absolutely terrific. Very heavy though!
2) The masks … Maki found out how to make these masks. Every day she diligently added a layer of glued paper to an inflated balloon in order to make a papier mâché base, to which we were able to attach pictures of the requested world leaders. It took days and days until we could even start attaching the pictures. Then getting them to fit around the mould was a very tricky process. In the end, out of necessity the faces became huge. Rather than detracting from the naturalness, it made them look absolutely hilarious. We couldn’t wait to use them at the party.
1) The Olympic Cauldron … This was not just a work of art, but a feat of engineering! Work started early, and continued right up to the day before the party. The design and painting were done by Joan, but assistance was offered by office staff and volunteers to try and get the thing working. The plan was for ribbons to fly up ‘flame-like’ when touched by the torch. The original plan was to use a little air circulator that we’d borrowed, but it just wasn’t powerful enough, so we ended up with two electric fans, as well as a light which somewhat perturbingly became hot when in use (we desperately wanted to avoid making a real fire…though agreed that would have made a heck of an impression on the audience!). It all came down to how we laid everything out, in terms of angles etc… I’m rubbish at physics, and the others weren’t much better either, so it ended up very much trial-and-error, with us just trying lots of different things. Luckily, what we ended up with was really great, and it got a great round of applause during the ‘opening ceremony’ at the party.
As for me personally, though I oversaw everything, my main personal contribution was a little quiz-type presentation about Halloween at the beginning of the party, to introduce the facts and background of the festival to the audience, then a video to introduce the theme of the party. The introduction didn’t take much preparation at all, I just put together a quick PowerPoint. The video on the other hand took hours. I have never made such a video before, so I really had to research everything as I was doing it. Fortunately, I-Movie is quite a fool-proof application, though still proved fairly tricky for a technophobe like me! I wasn’t able to bring to fruition my ideas completely, but what I prepared was well received enough. My main concept was to show the video of the time the president of the IOC unveiled Tokyo as the host city in 2020, but to have Yasu written instead of Tokyo. I didn’t know how difficult it would be to do such a thing at first, but, apparently, it’s extremely difficult! In the end I went for a really amateur version of the same idea, which was just as funny in its own way I think. I’ll put the full video here for anyone who is interested!