One of the most distinctive culture of Japan is the celebration of annual festivals better known as matsuri まつり, held from local community level up to the national level. While festivals can be celebrated through out the year, most are held during summer time (July - Sept). Another well-known Japanese festival, Bon Odori (盆踊り) is also held during summer specifically close to Obon season (mid August).
Last year I didn't join much festivals as I wasn't aware of the dates, or probably engaged with other commitments, so this year is my first time experience local community's festive events. It's good that the area I'm staying at host a number of matsuri around.
The first I went was this neighbourhood-level Bon Odori.
The drum set at the center, surrounded by dancers in traditional yukata.
As you can see, the Bon Odori was held during evening as the darkness looms. But only when the day is dark enough, the lanterns glow.
Another local festival is held right after I've finished my semester, this time it's slightly larger scale as the town council is participating as well.
One of the main agenda of matsuri is the procession of the portable shrine called Mikoshi (お神輿). This is the kid's version, enshrined in it is Doraemon heh.
While this kid's version is rather light, the real Mikoshi is quite heavy, from my previous experience joining the Mikoshi procession. Dozens of adults are needed just to move the Mikoshi around.
There are lots of traditional dancing procession happening too. The local community is eager to practise and perform for the festival.
End of July and early August was the most active having many different festivals happening around. This particular one was held nearby, a miniature version of Sendai's Tanabata Matsuri which also held simultaneously at the same time.
The signature of Tanabata matsuri would be these lantern-like hanging decorations.
Whole street was nicely decorated.
The main street leading to food stalls. The food stalls are synonym to matsuri, as matsuri is incomplete without food stalls!
My favourite snack, grill squid!!
One of the most common food stalls, selling Takoyaki (grill octopus balls).
This particular stall sells probably one of the biggest and best Takoyaki I've ever had so far!
An unexpected guest from the Force joining the festival lol.
Stormtrooper march on.
Glowing toys trying to attract kids.
Another event to mark the Japan's summer festivals would be fireworks display (花火大会).
There are 2 fireworks display, another located at Kawagoe (川越) but I chose to attend Saikasai (彩夏祭) with friends.
Well then, let the fireworks begin!!
Paint the sky with stars.
Floating flower in the dark.
Galactic stars clashes igniting the night
Rain of fire.
The two Japanese "dolls" that joined me that night.
Summer 2011 is indeed very interesting attending different festivals in Japan!
Looking forward for more next year!! ;)
Summer 2011 Part I Audio Technica HQ & Yokohama
Summer 2011 Part II: Tokyo National Museum 東京国立博物館
Summer 2011 Part III: From Shinagawa to Roppongi by foot