Japan has a lot of incredible festivals and matsuri that many overseas visitors don’t even know about! Although some of the more famous ones, such as cherry blossom viewing, might make it onto the radar, people seem to know less about regional festivals – but it’s an experience that should really be sought out!
Today, we interviewed people who were particularly surprised by the festivals they saw in the Kansai Region. There are many exciting Kansai festivals, including the Danjiri Matsuri in Kishiwada City, Osaka Prefecture, and the Nada no Kenka Matsuri in Hyogo Prefecture. So what did our foreign tourists think about these festivals?
(Interview responses are the personal opinions of the interviewees.)
The Speed of the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri in Osaka is Scary...!
"Something that really shocked me was the Danjiri Matsuri. I remember being scared when I saw this big thing that looked like a car running by at a tremendous speed with people on it. It turned the corner super fast, and many people even fell off. It looked really dangerous." (Male, American)
The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is particularly famous amongst the various Danjiri Festivals held in other parts of the Kansai Region. At this festival, people ride in a car-like vehicle, called a danjiri. The Danjiri used at the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is 4 meters in height and weighs 4 tons, and runs through the city at tremendous speed.
The festival's main attraction is called 'yarimawashi.' This refers to turning the danjiri (the car-like float) at right-angle intersections around the city without dropping speed. However, when turning, the danjiri may hit a private house and even destroy part of the property. People even get injured every year. It is strongly viewed as a dangerous festival, even by Japanese people.
Many foreigners seem shocked when they attend the Danjiri Matsuri, which basically turns their image of Japanese people on its head.
"Basically, I always thought of Japanese people as quiet, but was shocked to see so many people yelling out loud." (Male, American)
A strong stereotype of Japanese people held by many people overseas is that of them speaking quietly and being polite. It's no wonder so many people are surprised to hear their screams and angry voices at the festival.
Also, at the Kenka Matsuri, held in various places such as Hyogo, the mikoshi actually collide with each other violently. This must be far from the gentle image of Japanese people many foreigners seem to have.
Many foreigners who attend Kansai festivals may feel this way because these festivals are indeed a particularly wild side of Kansai. However, these festivals are also an opportunity to discover new aspects of Japanese people you may not have known before.
Disappointed By Bad Festival Manners!?
Although Japanese people are known worldwide for their good manners, at the time of festivals, everyone tends to be more energetic than usual. What do tourists from overseas think about Japanese people who behave like this?
"There were so many people gathering, and everyone was so excited, they seem to have forgotten their manners. Some people were noisy and just ignored the cops when stopped by them. There was a lot of trash, too, which was shocking because it was different from the image of Japanese people I used to have." (Male, America)
For foreigners, Japan has a strong image of good manners and cleanliness. However, what they see at festivals seems to be a bit different than expected. But leaving your garbage around and not listening to the people in charge is disrespectful, regardless if you understand Japanese or not. Japanese people must mind their manners, as well.
Many foreign tourists come from far away to visit Japanese festivals and learn about their origins and traditions, so it's pretty disappointing to see disruptions and bad manners. Thankfully, it's only a small few who cause problems. For the most part, the majority of Japanese people make sure to mind their manners.
Festival Stalls are Fun but Expensive...!?
Another indispensable part of a lively festival is a variety of food and amusements at different kinds of stalls. Yakisoba and candy apple stalls are nostalgic for many Japanese people, but what do foreign tourists think about them?
"There were a lot of stalls, but I didn't know what the foods would taste like, or if they were cheap or expensive, so I didn't buy anything. There were many takoyaki stalls, too, probably because it was Osaka. There were many similar shops, so I didn't know what to do.'' (Male, American)
Because it was a Kansai festival, even many foreigners were aware of the number of okonomiyaki and takoyaki stalls.
Also, prices are written a bit differently here than in ordinary supermarkets, so they were probably difficult to understand. One thing that many Japanese people feel similarly about is that the prices of some products are indeed slightly higher than usual, so they feel less inclined to buy.
Festival stalls may seem a bit expensive, however, there is more than just food. There are also goldfish scooping, target shooting, and other amusements. They are also a good opportunity for foreign tourists to discover new Japanese foods and games they don't normally see.
Locals Are Friendly and Fun to Interact With
There were many people who were shocked by the different side of Japan they saw at these festivals, but of course, there were also many good things about attending festivals in Kansai. Here are some things that shocked foreign tourists about these festivals in a good way.
"Watching the children wear happi and yell excitedly while holding the omikoshi at the summer festival was really cute. Children in Osaka are very friendly, and I was a little surprised that they let me join them. I'm glad I could experience that side of Japan." (Male, American)
It seems that experiences at small local festivals were generally positive, especially because there were more opportunities to interact with locals. While many tourists are interested only in the festivals, many are even happier for the chance to interact with participating locals.
Many people were shocked by the kindness and friendliness of Japanese people who interacted with them.
Colorful and Impressive Fireworks
Some tourists also expressed shock in unexpected ways outside of contact with other people.
"I was amazed by the shapes of the fireworks. There were many big flower-shaped ones, and I even saw one with many circles for the first time. Japanese people are very skillful. The show was really beautiful." (Male, American)
Japanese people often have a strong image of delicacy and attention to detail, and the same could be said about their fireworks festivals, or hanabi. It seems many people were shocked by the differences between fireworks seen overseas versus those in Japan.
Though fireworks were originally brought in from overseas, they have a long history in Japan. It seems fireworks festivals were even held in various places during the Edo Period.
As for the fireworks, it seems Japan has managed to incorporate its own unique technology and added all kinds of variations, which seems to be pleasing to people from all over the world today.
It's Important to Remember Good Manners, Even During Festivals
Festivals may be a special time, but that's never an excuse for littering, causing disruptions, or forgetting your manners.
Regardless of whether you are a local or a tourist, it is important to be courteous and pay attention to your surroundings when at a festival.
On the other hand, when interviewed, some people felt they had better communication with Japanese people during the festival.
Festivals in Kansai are a place where you can see what some might call a peculiar side of Japan. Even if you are not a fan of the hustle and bustle, they are a great opportunity to enjoy a side of Japan that you will not normally see elsewhere.
Interviews & text by Dali Corporation
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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