Of the things I love most about Japan, Matsuri (festivals) have to be up there at the top of the list!
Before moving to Tokyo, I lived in Nagoya for a couple of years. I was lucky enough to live close to Atsuta Jingu, one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan. I remember each year the build up to Atsuta Matsuri was so exciting. A few days before the festival would kick off, the stalls would start to appear, lanterns would be put up along the street and through the shrine, and the local community had a sense of anticipation, ready for the 250,000 visitors that would descend upon the area. At the festival, people dressed in summer yukata and had fun pigging out on yakiniku (meat skewers), butter potatoes, hot dogs, okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), and all those good festival foods! The main highlights were the parade and fireworks. Then, after the festival was all over, the lanterns would come down, the vendors would pack up and move to the next festival, and the place would return to its quiet, peaceful state.
It might be a bit strange, but actually festivals in Japan remind me a lot of “shows” back home in Australia. In my hometown we would see the stalls and rides getting set up in the showgrounds in the days before the show started. Kicking off the event was always some sort of parade, usually musicians and hand-decorated floats. A big part of the show were the ‘pavilions’ where you could see art and craft exhibits, buy showbags, visit the animal nursery, and lots more. During the day, we’d watch the horse jumping, dog shows or wood chopping competitions. At night, after meeting up with our friends we’d check out the sideshow alley and have a go at the ‘laughing clowns’, ‘shooting alley’ or ‘bust-a-balloon’ before hitting the big rides! Then we’d find a seat in the grandstand and enjoy the fireworks!
Both in Japan and Australia, there are hundreds of shows/festivals every year. The dates differ for each town or city, and the stalls and rides often follow the circuit, moving from town to town. One thing that really stands out for me is the ‘atmosphere’ at both shows and festivals. Even though both cultures are very different, the purpose is still the same. These events are always fun, light-hearted, energetic, and everyone is there to have a good time!
But, one thing Aussie shows don’t have that Japanese festivals do, is a long-standing history and traditional culture. For me, one of the most impressive and memorable things about seeing a matsuri is witnessing customs that have lasted for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years!
Have you been to any shows or festivals (or fairs or carnivals!)?
What was the best thing about them?
✰ Australian Shows ✰
✰ Japanese Matsuri ✰