It’s not on a Tuesday, and it’s not in the usual season, and it’s not in New Orleans… but that’s not been stopping everyone in Matsue from having a good time and celebrating the culture of New Orleans every October for the past four years.

The Matsue New Orleans Club started as a social club for people with similar interests in New Orleans, especially jazz. In addition to other jazz events throughout the year, they started putting on Little Mardi Gras to do out-reach to children. The city has been very supportive of this, especially since New Orleans has been Matsue’s Friendship City for over 21 years now. Likewise, the City of New Orleans has also been very supportive, as well as very impressed. School bands, as well as other interested community members, learn to perform jazz numbers and parade through the streets and hand out not-so-easily-attained-in-large-quantities Mardi Gras beads to the spectators who come to watch in the castle town’s shopping streets.

This year, the parade went from near Matsue Castle down to the Ohashi Bridge and then back to the Shimane Civic Center for ongoing live performances. Although the layout of the city has largely remained unchanged since it was planned over 400 years ago, you’d almost think this city was built for parades, especially since the Ohashi Bridge provides such a picturesque spot for both spectating and showing off.

After a number of the elementary through high school bands paraded through, members of our regular visitors and assisting organizers, the Khachaturian Band, walked in ahead of the Shimane University brass band.

Once everyone made it to the bridge, we all squished there under the radiant blue skies for the battle of the bands, heading it off in a medley of practiced “When the Saints go Marching In” renditions. Although the San’in region is known for shadow more so than for sunshine, this was the second time we’ve hosted delegations from New Orleans in conjuction with Little Mardi Gras, and both times the visitors have brought us amazing weather.

The blue sky over Ohashikan, a ryokan that overlooks the Ohashi Bridge and Ohashi River.

On the flip side, Mardi Gras 2014 was rained out in both New Orleans and Matsue, with some sort of shared fate. However, the cycle of luck goes on–on both our sunny 2013 and 2015 parades, the Saints won both weekends (and as of when I’m writing this, so far this season that is the only game the Saints have won. Looks like we better hold more parades).

While there is some Saints influence seen throughout the parade, music remains the focus, and while each band shows off, the others duck down low for everyone to take their spotlight, which they pop up ready for the moment their name is announced. It all builds up to everyone performing unison, everyone from elementary school students to traveling professionals.


After that, and a few comments from our visitors to rile everyone up for more celebration, it’s time to turn the parade back around for a second go, this time back towards the castle.


One of the biggest differences between Matsue’s Little Mardi Gras and the big carnival that goes on for weeks in New Orleans, besides the obvious lack of floats, is that Japan isn’t so keen on throwing prizes (unless you’re throwing stone-hard mochi and shooting arrows in shrines, yeah, that’s perfectly acceptable). Therefore, instead of “throws” they’re more like “hand-outs.” Although the organizers always make sure to prepare beads, this year the delegates from New Orleans went all out with specialized Krewe beads, vintage doubloons, King Cake babies, cups, scarves, and then some.

The parade keeps growing every year, but looks like the bar just got set higher! Hopefully we’ll have some more visitors from New Orleans next year to ensure more good weather.

Although I have three other cities in other prefectures that I consider additional homes in Japan due to the ties I’ve made through extended or multiple homestay experiences, I’ve never introduced myself as being from Seki, Tahara, or Hirakata. I have had the pleasure instead of introducing myself in the Kanto and Kansai regions, and even in New Orleans, as being from Matsue. I wasn’t lying, really! I was there to represent the city as one who is part of the city! Do not be fooled by my features, I came from Matsue!

Speaking of New Orleans, we just had a group visit for a TOMODACHI Initiative exchange program, the second part of a two-year grant. Last year the Japan Society of New Orleans hosted a group (and I got to tag along as part of the official city delegation!), and we got to return the hospitality this time.

The Friendship City relationship between Matsue and New Orleans, due to their shared links with Lafcadio Hearn, is now 21 years old and I’ve had the pleasure of being a key person for a very active period in their exchange history. Besides being the primary point of contact and managing all the communication and translation at official and often unofficial levels, I also teach people in Matsue about New Orleans. At first I was hesitant to do this because I had only basic familiarity with this very, very unique city, but I’ve learned a lot and got to learn even more by actually visiting there and being some of the representative eyes of Matsue. Now it is up to the group we just hosted to go back and tell the people in New Orleans more about Matsue as they saw it!

Nevertheless, I still most confidently claim that I am from Colorado Springs, and I am very happy to give presentations about my hometown too. I should still try to go to Fujiyoshida at some point and visit my own Sister City…


It’s school visit season again! I usually give presentations to 5th and 6th grade students. I’ve perhaps learned more over this process than the students have…

Seeing as I am a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) rather than an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher), my “regular” schools are the ones I only go to once a year or so. Rather than teaching English, I give presentations about the US culture in Japanese. This is so that everyone can understand clearly, but as you can see, misunderstandings sometimes arise anyway. Sometimes it’s a very brief presentation amidst five presentations about different countries and then I never see those kids again, sometimes the kids do research and I get to watch their presentations later (and correct them if necessary), sometimes the kids prepare fully rehearsed welcome presentations about their city and neighborhood and Japanese culture. Technically I can be called to a school any time of year, but autumn is usually when there is the most flexibility in the academic year to fit in some extra study about other cultures, or a day to hang out and play with the CIRs.

In a ten minute presentation to elementary school students I usually focus on basic facts about the US (as compared to Japan), geography, famous places and scenery, sports, and food—everyone loves to hear about food culture! If I have extra time or if the teachers have special requests I may add other topics, like more about my hometown or weather or wild animals or what US public elementary schools are like, or we play a bilingual version of Simon Says. I’ve only gone to a few junior high and high schools, but sometimes the teachers have heard that I was homeschooled and specifically request presentations about this, and the teachers tend to listen in with the most interest (though sleeping in and wearing pajamas all day and going to theme parks on weekdays always gets an “ii na~” out of the students, too). It’s so much easier to present about vastly different topics like that when you are able to devote the majority of a presentation to it, as it gives you a chance to give it more context and to clear up misunderstandings before they even arise.

I hope, anyway. Sometimes you only learn what leads to over-generalizations and misunderstandings after inviting them. It’s a learning process for everyone.

Sometimes, I give presentations specifically about Matsue’s Friendship City, New Orleans, and the chef and owner of Greens Baby (a social space with worldwide taste) teaches the kids to make gumbo (or at least, chop and saute the holy creole trinity of vegetables to add to the base he’s already prepared). One of my favorite school visits was one of these gumbo classes for the special ed kids, where they were really engaged in the presentation and asked all sorts of questions, and wrote very passionate thank you letters to me later. I went back a few weeks later to their school-wide concert, where they performed “When The Saints Go Marching In” and gave a little poster-board presentation to their entire school about New Orleans.

They nailed it.

I was so proud that I got a little choked up.

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!


The school bands and bands throughout the community, in addition to their impressive performance in the parade, also played at Karakoro Square, Karakoro Art Studio, and a little further north towards the Shimance Civic Center. The music lingered through the streets hours after the parade had ended.

Regular entries will resume shortly!

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!

Music has no borders, but jazz has a special way of bringing people together across across linguistic borders. With no advance preparation togther, Sasha’s band and the Khacha Band were able to seemlessly start performing New Orleans’ classic together as if they had always performed together.

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Friendship City ties, Sasha Masakowski and her quartet visited to perform at the anniversary ceremony and for Little Mardi Gras in Matsue.

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!

The parade lead to Karakoro Square in the Kyomise shopping district, where more of the crowd was waiting to watch the successive performances.

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!

Haruka Kikuchi has recently moved to New Orleans to pursue a jazz career. We’ll miss her visits to Matsue!

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!

The Khachaturian Band has been very helpful in setting up Matsue a center for New Orleans culture in Japan, and in addition to setting the tone for the parade, they’ve performed in a number of places around Matsue. The Matsue New Orleans Club also brings in jazz artists from abroad.

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!

The parade was a good chance for the general public to interact with the official delegates from New Orleans. You can read a report on the delegation’s experience here.