The mayor of the Japanese city of Yokote drank Tongan kava while sheltering from the Akita snow during the Kamakura Festival on February 15.
Residents and visitors not only tasted kava and delicious faikakai, they also enjoyed Tongan music and the chance to view a kamakura house decorated with authentic Tongan designs and artefacts.
The Tongan community in Japan were asked for the first time to participate in the annual festival where people are invited into the kamakura to eat and drink.
The Tongan team were led by the Ambassador to Japan, Her Excellency Tania Laumanulupe Tupou.
Gifted Tongan designers united to decorate the kamakura and used it to showcase ‘Anga Faka-Tonga’ (Tongan Way of Life).
They also collected donations for cyclone victims in Ha’apai.
Heu Taufa from the Tongan team said they decorated one of the five kamakuras built for the festival.
She said “it’s usual for the Japanese to serve sake and sweet Japanese treats.”
But in our unique Fale Tonga Kamakura we gave them a taste and feel of Tonga instead. Kava ceremonies, faikakai as well as traditional music, she said.
“Although there were a lot of sleepless nights and burnt fingers gluing designs together, it was all worth it.”
“The Tonga Creations Team featured the 'Kaute Kula Collections' by Heu Taufa, the 'Losaline Designs' by Losaline Kaho Havili, a Tongan Emblem hand drawn by Alaska Taufa, and the11 metre long ‘Tonga Kupesi Wrap’ also designed by Taufa which covered the exterior of the house.”
Miss Taufa, who loves art and crafts and drawing Tongan kupesi (stencil), said she was “super excited” to help out.
“I made a sample of a mini-igloo, sent a picture to the Ambassador, and she gave me the green light to go ahead.”
“This was the first Tongan igloo at the festival and it was an honour to be a part of the team”.”
“The ‘Tonga Kupesi Wrap’ was made of kafa (sinnet) used to outline each kupesi, with added fillers of ngatu (tapa cloth) pieces and fala paongo (mat).”
“I wanted everybody to not only see the Wrap, but to also feel the kupesi and the coconut, ngatu and fala fibres that were used to create it," Miss Taufa told Kaniva News.
Taufa said she tried hard to blend the two cultures into her work.
“The Wrap was made to match another unique creation, the ‘Fala Ha'apai Star’ created by Losaline. This was a beautiful 2.5 metre round mat that was placed inside the Kamakura.”
“A very unique design indeed, made from fala paongo, ngatu and kafa, giving the people of Yokote a feel for our cultural products.”
“And The Sila ‘o Tonga was perfectly hand painted by Alaska Taufa. It welcomed our guests into the kamakura," Miss Taufa said.
A kamakura is a small round house or shelter built from blocks of hard snow. In Yokote City, more than 100 kamakura and countless miniature kamakura are made. At night, they are illuminated by candle.
The festival has been going for about 400 year old and is said to have its origins in traditional New Year decorations and the customary chasing of crop-damaging birds.
An altar is erected inside the kamakura, so sake and rice cakes can be offered to the gods.
Children invite passers-by inside to chat to eat rice cakes and sweets washed down with sake.