Summer in Japan is the season for festivals called matsuri (祭). Festivals are often based around one or two main events, with food stalls, entertainment, music and carnival games. Some are based around temples or shrines (including the popular portable shrine which is carried through the crowds), fireworks (called hanabi – a topic for a future post), and others around contests such as archery and horseback riding. Many women (and some men) wear colorful yukatas, a Japanese summer garment. A great listing of Tokyo festivals can be found in TokyoFive’s Festival page.
Last weekend, we attended two local neighborhood festivals near our area.
Bon Odori (盆踊り), or simply Bon dance, is an event held during Obon. It is celebrated as a reminder of the gratefulness one should feel toward one’s ancestors. The Bon dance involves people lining up in a circle around a high wooden scaffold made especially for the festival called a yagura, with a drummer high above.
Of course, the elegant Roppongi Hills Bon Odori had entertainment (singers, taiko drums, drama-dance), food stalls and a few carnival games as part of its program.
The Azabu Juban matsuri is one of the biggest festivals in Tokyo with over 125,000 people attending – it was very crowded indeed. The streets are narrow and it was so crowded that it was difficult to move and you were just swept along, but Japanese people are very respectful and there was absolutely no pushing and shoving. To make things more challenging, when the rains came, and the umbrellas came out.
There were a lot of food stalls, with all types of food, beer and other beverages were also for sale – what’s a festival without food and drinking!
Carnival games included live goldfish scooping where you use a small round flat scooper make out of rice paper which easily breaks – it is definitely not as easy as it looks.
There was an international bazaar, bon dance, live bands and performances.
It was a rainy weekend, but all in all, the rain didn’t damper the celebrations too much and all had a great time. Until next year! More pictures are posted on my Facebook and I am also uploading more videos on YouTube.