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School celebrates annual Cherry Blossom Fair

Visitors brave the elements for spring charity festivities at Tokyo International School

by Minoru Matsutani

While the weather had yet to recover completely from the record-low temperatures of earlier this month, hundreds of visitors braved the cold to attend the Cherry Blossom Fair at the Tokyo International School in Mita, Minato Ward, on Saturday.

Elementary school students with face paintings posed for cameras and everyone from preschoolers to adults lined up for a toilet-paper-throwing game and at a rock climbing wall in the annual spring event, which is free and open to the public.

The fair featured musical and dance performances by students, fun games and food from 15 different countries.

“What’s great about (the Cherry Blossom Fair) is, everybody — students, faculty, parents — are all so excited about it. It’s fun and anybody can come,” TIS Head of School Des Hurst said.

The charity event, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., had food booths from the Netherlands, India, Italy, Romania, New Zealand, Israel, Scandinavia, France, Australia, South Korea, Germany, Japan, the United States, Singapore and Egypt.

At many of the booths, the food was prepared by students’ parents, and in some cases restaurants and catering services also donated meals.

The TIS Choir and TIS string instruments players performed, while a hula hoop show and magic show provided more entertainment. Students from a nearby Japanese public school also gave a “taiko” drum presentation.

“Multiculturalism is amazing. There are many foods from all over the world, people here are very diverse. I can have this only in Tokyo,” said Dror Wohlfeiler of Israel and the father of two TIS students.

A Japanese high school girl who was walking nearby and joined in the festivities said, “This is like a foreign country here. It is interesting and the children are cute.”

Half of the charity event’s proceeds, coming from raffle tickets and sales at food and game booths, will be used for undecided charity purposes, according to TIS.

In the past, the money raised was spent to support charity organizations such as Daddy Long Legs, a school for children who live in and around garbage dumps in the Philippines, and to finance the building of a school in Cambodia.

The other half will be spent on school projects, such as equipment for sports teams, the school’s playground and musical instruments, the school said.

Donors such as hotels, airlines and restaurants awarded prizes to raffle winners.

Prizes included round-trip airline tickets from United Airlines, overnight stays at the Conrad Tokyo, Hilton Osaka, Hyatt Hakone Resort and other hotels, entry tickets for the Kidzania job-experience amusement park, dinner at many restaurants, and food and wine.

Booths do not take cash at the annual festival, and visitors must buy tickets at ticket-vending locations at the school.

“We were lucky it became sunny in the afternoon. I’m sure everybody had a good time,” said Cathy Stephenson, a coordinator of the Cherry Blossom Fair.

Tokyo International School was founded in 1997. Its student body has grown from 12 children in the first year to about 400 students from more than 45 countries, according to its Web site. It currently enrolls students from 4 years old to the eighth grade.