Japanese Summer Festivals: Picturesque but Full of Surprises for Foreigners!
A special feature of summer in Japan are festivals (omatsuri). In recent years you can find more foreigners visiting large scale festivals held around the country and local festivals held at temples and shrines. It is a perfect place to feel and experience Japanese culture.
We asked foreigners living in Japan what surprised them in Japanese summer festivals.
Growing up in Japan, summer festivals are the norm, but to foreigners, they're full of surprises. (The following are personal opinions of people who reviewed our interview.)
Chefs' Skills at Food Stands like Takoyaki and Yakisoba is Amazing!
Most people commented about food stands.
“The takoyaki [octopus balls] stand at festivals were quite surprising. It’s amazing how fast they can spin them!” (America/30’s/Male)
“The way they cook takoyaki was mesmerizing and I wanted to keep watching them cook.” (Mexico/40’s/Female)
“Takoyaki is very popular in Thailand, but seeing it cooked on a huge iron plate was very impressive.” (Thailand/40’s/Female)
“The skill level of the people making huge portions of yakisoba (fried noodles) on the large iron plate was remarkable” (Australia/20’s/Male)
Food stand cuisine is a unique Japanese culture. The energetic staff quickly preparing food must be shocking to people.
Many Instaworthy Stands - Like Yo-Yo, Chocolate Bananas and Shaved Ice!
“Japanese festival stands are colorful and cute! The yo-yo stand was a great hit on Instagram, and I think most people from Vietnam would enjoy it.” (Vietnam/20’s/Female)
“We have shaved ice in Taiwan, but Japanese shaved ice stands are very colorful with different colors like strawberry, melon, lemon, and blue Hawaii!” (Taiwan/30’s/Female)
“Japanese chocolate bananas are cute but very bizarre (lol). They are covered with pink, blue and other colorful chocolate chips. When my friend told me ‘those are bananas’ I couldn’t believe them.” (Canada/20’s/Female)
Many ladies said that “the festival stands in Japan are very colorful.” Japanese festivals have lots of picturesque foods such as chocolate-covered bananas, shaved ice, cotton candy, and candy apples!
Surprised to See Everyone Dance in a Circle!
The standard Bon Odori Dance event at Japanese summer festivals was even surprising to foreigners.
“In my country, people walk in parades, but seeing people dance in a circle was new and surprising!” (Spain/10’s/Female)
“I participated in the bond dance this year. Dancing slowly around in a circle felt like a sacred act to me!” (America/30’s/Male)
“I was surprised that people danced in yukata (summer kimono)!” (England/10’s/Male)
According to a theory, Bon dance was used as a ritual to give prayer to a god. Bon dance which has a different root from foreign parades must seem very attractive to foreigners.
What! Scooping Goldfish? That’s Horrible...
Here are some concerned opinions.
“I feel bad for the goldfish at the goldfish scooping events! They are placed in a cramped tank and being scooped up with paper scoopers is animal abuse.” (France/20’s/Female)
“There was an unpopular stand with tiny turtles. I started to wonder what would happen to the turtles once they were done and it made me sad.” (Malaysia/30’s/Male)
In recent years we don’t see many turtle scooping or colored chicklets; however goldfish scooping is still a standard event in summer festivals. Seeing the goldfish swim gracefully is beautiful, but I can still understand why people think it's “animal abuse”...
Japanese festivals are full of different stands, dances, and discoveries. Since we are in the middle of summer, we hope that many foreigners get to experience Japanese summer festivals.
Written by: Ran Tanaka
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*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.