Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Festival Time

“When it’s time to party we will always party hard”
-modern rocker Andrew W.K.


A crowd gathers in anticipation of the Aomori-Nebuta parade.

As an American, I cherished holiday celebrations, parades, and festivals. Thankfully, the Japanese are no different in their pursuit of celebratory enjoyment. In fact, the Nihonjin (Japanese) take it to the next level. In order to commemorate their heritage and to attract tourists, most towns feature unique annual matsuri (festivals). The area I reside in, Aomori-ken, which is decimated by harsh and snowy winters, embraces spring and summer as festival season. For example, in Hirosaki, there is the Cherry Blossom festival featuring the visual splendor of over 2,600 Sakura trees amidst the ancient Hirosaki Castle. In neighboring Akita-Ken there’s the Omagari Firworks competition where pyrotechnic teams compete for superiority. Dozens of festivals devoted to tuna, garlic, and several other staple agricultural products provide people with an excuse for a relaxing, guilt-free drunken holiday.


No festival is complete without port-a-potties.

What does a Japanese festival entail? Usually a parade, carnival-esque food vendors, and public drinking complete the matsuri experience. It is perfectly legal and encouraged for you to BYOB (bring your own booze) or purchase some curious liquids from local vendors or nearby vending machines. Just don’t hop on in a car or on a bike, as Japan boasts a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for both drivers and bikers. Typically, a festival will conclude with a fireworks display for as long as fifty years, or it just feels that way.


Vendors offer tasty treats.

Captain`s Log: Japanese vendors are much cuter than American carnies.


A festival food classic: dried squid.

Captain`s Log: Dried squid blows.

Aomori-ken as a whole though is most famous for ‘Nebuta,” a festival celebrated in various Aomori-ken townships throughout the summer. The highlight of these festivals are nightly parades where volunteers carry illuminated hand-crafted and painted paper floats, rhythmically bang on taiko drums (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiko), and/or wear special festival garments while shouting “rastafari rastafari (?).” The Aomori Nebuta Festival official site provides a plethora of information and photos. Luckily, I’ve been fortunate enough to have savored the powerful beauty of both the Aomori and Tachi Nebuta festivals. Consequently, I look forward to many more! For more information on Japanese festivals, just do what I did dummy, and google it! Or check out, the Wikipedia article.

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