In the summer season, several matsuri, Japanese festivals, take place all over Japan. Most of them are annual traditions to celebrate gods, seasons, and historical events. During the occasion, you can witness Japanese tradition and culture at the highest level. If you want to fully enjoy the real experience, make sure you’re ready!
A fun part about enjoying a matsuri is wearing traditional clothes! A yukata is like a less complicated version of a kimono that historically, people used to wear after taking a bath. It is much easier to put together than a kimono, and it is also cheaper to buy or rent one.
When a yukata is worn, it is worn together with a kinchaku, a small Japanese bag. The kinchaku is necessary to carry one’s stuff since the yukata doesn’t have any pockets. To complete the outfit, you need traditional Japanese shoes, zori and geta.
Now you’re dressed up and ready to enjoy the matsuri. Don’t forget to bring with you an uchiwa, round paper fan, or a sensu, the classic folding fan.
Enjoying a matsuri requires you to eat at food stalls and taste traditional matsuri food! One of the most popular options is yakisoba, which is stir-fried noodles with vegetables and pork that’s topped with pickled red ginger. Then you have takoyaki, which is a ball-shaped snack that originated in Osaka. It is made with minced or diced octopus, tempura pieces, green onion, then sprinkled with the signature takoyaki sauce and topped with bonito flakes and mayonnaise. There are also various types of Japanese-style skewers, including the popular ikayaki, grilled squid. On the more refreshing side, you might find kakigori, the famous shaved ice dessert made from a massive block of ice and then topped with syrup and condensed milk.
Once your dress up in your yukata and have a full belly of matsuri food, it is time to participate in the matsuri itself! Follow the procession of the portable shrines called mikoshi, view the traditional shows with taiko drums, watch the fireworks or performance exhibitions, and feel the rhythm by joining the traditional dance!
There are several types of matsuri and each of them have different activities. That’s why it is enjoyable to go to different kinds ones and discover different vibes!
Lastly, to enjoy Japanese matsuris even more, why not challenge yourself to some of its game booths? You don’t have to be a kid to try!
One of the most popular matsuri games is kingyo sukui, goldfish scooping. Using a scooper with a thin piece of paper as a net and try to catch as many goldfish as you can before the weak paper rips. This game can be different and may require some skill. You can take home the goldfish you caught and keep it as a pet for years to come.
Another popular game is the yo-yo tsuri. Small water balloons are filled with both air and water to give them buoyancy. The balloons are then closed with a rubber string tied with a loop. To get one of these balloons, you use a stick with a metal hook attached to the end of a paper string. The goal is to “fish” the balloon out of the water before the paper string holding the hook disintegrates. After you catch your balloon, you loop it around your finger and bounce it around like a yo-yo.