Summertime is Festival Season

August 9, 2007 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

Around this time of year I get a little homesick for Japan. Despite the hot weather, August is the season for cool festivals. Throughout the month, girls put up their hair and don their cutest flowery-print yukata (don’t mistake it for a kimono!).

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A traditional yukata hangs just above the ankle, but these days you’ll find some girls hiking it up to mid-thigh like a miniskirt gone wild. Guys get away with a T-shirt and jeans, but the ones who wear the male version of the yukata, a jimbei, always get Brownie points from me. Of course, everyone has dyed brown hair. It wouldn’t be Japan if they didn’t.

Each town has its unique traditions. In Sendai City, located in northern Japan, their main shopping center artery is decorated with huge, multi-colored pompoms strung from the ceiling. Long crepe-paper streamers hang down from the big puff-balls, tickling shoppers’ noses as they stroll down the arcade. It’s a celebration called Tanabata when, according to legend, two star-crossed lovers are allowed to reunite on the seventh day of the seventh month. (That would be August 6 on the lunar calendar.)

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Down in the southern city of Tokushima, residents pay respect for their deceased loved ones during the Awa Dance Festival. Dressed in light summer robes, they pretend to stumble down the street, rhythmically waving their arms in the air like drunken acrobats. Yes, it might sound irreverent – who dances at funerals? – but instead of feeling sad for the dearly departed the festival represents a celebration of that person’s life.

But aside from dancing, festivals are about good eats. Just imagine an open area filled with rows and rows of food stalls, selling everything from strawberry snow cones to skewered squid; cotton candy to soy sauce-grilled corn. Festivals are great for stirring up the local economy, too. On any given festival day you’ll have more foot traffic than a Texas stampede. Some festivals have become so famous that some people fly from halfway ‘round the world to get there.

Now if you’ll excuse me for a moment. I’ll be catching the next flight to Tokyo. There’s a festival coming up this weekend and I wouldn’t want to miss it. (^_< )

Himawari

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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Entertainment.

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