August is Festival (まつり) time in Japan. On any given weekend in August, you can be sure to find a festival somewhere in Japan. This year I missed the Nagoya Castle Festival, but I made it to the Hirokojidori Matsuri (広小路道まつぃ). Basically, several city blocks in downtown Nagoya are blocked and you have a big street party.
A matsuri in Japan is much like a county fair, or any one of a number of festivals that you can have in any small town in the US. It’s a way to get out, have some fun, eat some unhealthy food, and wonder why you went. In Japan, there are matsuri throughout the year (for instance, the fertility festival which I posted about that some people declared NSFW, or the naked man festival– the two posts that are responsible for the most number of hits to my website), but August is by far the most popular time. I think it is because it coincides with school holidays and Obon, so there are lots of reasons for people to take a little more time. The weather is incredibly hot and humid, so it is probably also a really good excuse to get out of the house because the house will be boiling hot anyway.
Unfortunately I forgot my camera, but I had my iPhone which has a pretty good camera.
The matsuri I visited tonight had all the requisite matsuri foods like karaage (からあげ), yakisoba (焼きそば), fried potatoes (フライドポテト), beer (ビール), scary chocolate bananas (バナナチョッコ), and so on. I had my traditional karaage and yakisoba. And walked down the street with a beer.
The street had many stages set up. There was the Jazz Stage, another stage with the Arc de Triomphe as the background for some inexplicable reason, two taiko areas, a domannaka style dance area, and a street dancing stage. Well, that’s some of the stages. They also had a bon odori area. Very nice, and participants easily ranged from 5 to 75.
One thing I really like about Japan is that young and old alike are not afraid to participate in traditional activities. Although I’m sure some customs are dying, younger generations do seem willing to stay engaged. As a matter of fact, one of my young colleagues was planning to go to Gujo during Obon for their bon odori all night dance. I thought that was really cool. Unfortunately, work intervened and he couldn’t make it. He doesn’t strike me as extremely traditional, I just think he thinks it’s fun.
The entrepreneurs start very young here too. Instead of a lemonade stand, this kid is selling beer.