The ExPat Returneth

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Festival Fish

When we lived in Japan, one of our favorite activities was attending festivals. You could count on candy apples, chocolate bananas, takoyaki (batter dipped octopus balls), yakisoba (stir fried noodles), and beer. The kids loved putting on their yukata (cotton kimono) and trying their hand at the games. 

Kid Tai float
The big festivals have some kind of special significance, usually related to Shinto rites. For example, on the Expat header you see the giant fighting Tai (Sea Bream) fish from the Toyohama Tai festival.

But there are also many neighborhood festivals throughout the year, particularly in summer.

Taiko drumming at a festival

The big festivals are fun. Crowded with tourists from Japan and elsewhere, they usually featured some kind of parade and ritual. Many times the drinking of sake accompanied carrying heavy floats. No motorized trailers decorated with tissue covered chicken wire, these floats are portable shrines. The most famous is the Gion Festival in Kyoto where giant, wooden shrines on wheel, some several stories high, are pulled and pushed through the narrow streets. Crowds scream as the shrines make tight turns and threaten to tip over. Beer and sake flows among crowds packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

A Gifu festival shrine
The Gion festival floats in Kyoto

The neighborhood festivals often times have an activity attached. Our local festival had a kind of scavenger hunt where we had to answer questions at different stations for a prize. We won shrimp crackers. The girls were pleased. I was hoping for the big money win: a bag of rice.

Fish Catch

The yoyo balloon game
Free swords at a neighborhood festival

At a festival, you could always count on finding the particularly unusual or amusing. Twice we saw a man dressed in diaper and panda mask claiming to be Pandaman. The Onigiri man, wearing a rice ball hat, extolled the virtues of rice balls at a nearby neighborhood festival. Sometimes we'd run into a festival. We love the serendipity of walking around a corner and finding ourselves immersed in revelry.
Onigiri (rice ball) man at a local festival
A Animecon festival

What kinds of festivals did you attend in your host country? Please share! Anyone attend one of the many naked festivals?

The Konomiya Naked Festival

1 comment:

  1. Great article! I would just add that for longer stays people should consider getting a so called overseas medical insurance. It will no doubt provide some reassurance in case when medical services are required while abroad.