Going to a Summer Festival

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Going to a Summer Festival

Although the summer’s big festivals with huge fireworks shows are certainly spectacular, the smaller summer festivals held in many communities are also a unique experience not to be missed.

Usually held in a park or school ground, with dancing, food and drink, and other attractions, the festival is a chance for locals to socialize and have a fun evening with family, friends and neighbors. If you’re a resident, the festival can be a great place to meet locals and learn about your community. If you’re only here for a short stay and you happen to come across a festival, don’t be shy. When you see people in yukata (traditional summer wear) walking by and hear loud music and a drum beating somewhere nearby, go and check it out.




Entering the lantern-lit venue, you will probably see people dancing in a circle around an elevated stage draped with auspicious red and white-striped cloth. On the stage are a number of yukata-clad lead dancers, and perhaps someone beating a drum to the music blaring from the speakers. This type of dancing, which anyone can join in, is known as Bon-odori (Bon being the period in mid-August when people welcome the visiting spirits of their forebears).

As you watch all these people, young and old, dancing in unison, bear in mind that many of them probably didn’t know the dance beforehand, or had at least forgotten it in the year since the last festival. That means that you, too, with a little bit of practice and perseverance, can soon be dancing like everybody else. Just watch and follow.


Stall cuisine

Don’t worry about turning up to the festival on an empty stomach, because there are bound to be a variety of stalls offering food and drinks (including beer). Some typical festival fare to watch out for:

Yakisoba / やきそば (fried noodles)

Okonomiyaki / お好み焼き (savory pancake)

Karaage / からあげ (spicy fried chicken)

Tamasen / たません (a fried egg [tamago] with sauce and other toppings sandwiched between large shrimp crackers [ebi senbei])

Furankufuruto / フランクフルト (frankfurt on a stick)

Furaido poteto / フライドポテト (French fries / hot chips)

Kaki-gōri / かき氷 (shaved ice with syrup)

Choko-banana / チョコバナナ (banana dipped in chocolate of various colors and scattered with sprinkles)

Ringo-ame / りんご飴 (candy apple / toffee apple)

Wata-ame / わたあめ or wata-gashi / わたがし (cotton candy / fairy floss)


Other attractions

There are also non-food stalls with children’s toys (where kids can spend their pocket money on masks of popular TV characters and flashing trinkets) and games of skill.

A popular traditional skill tester is kingyo-sukui (金魚すくい), or goldfish scooping, the objective of which is to lift goldfish out of a pool and into a bowl using a paddle with a thin layer of paper stretched over it, before the paper disintegrates in the water. If a live goldfish is not an appealing prize, but you’d still like to test your scooping skills, look for a stall where you can try scooping up rubber ‘super-balls’ or other small toys with a similar paper paddle.

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