First Impressions of a Japanese Festival
August 24, 2009
I finally made it out to a summer festival, this one in Iga, a city super close to Nabari. It’s also the birthplace of the ninja, which explains why they have not-so-intimidating ninja dudes all over their trains.
You don’t get very far into the festival before coming across a bunch of people crowded around the street where various local groups wearing neat-o get-ups perform dances and songs. Very entertaining, and usually you got to see a bunch of little kids trying their darndest to dance and/or wave a flag around.
The highlight performance, though, came courtesy of a bunch of adults dressed as cars. I feel all modern dance should aim to duplicate what these folks did.
They had a “race,” which mostly consisted of them running around in circles and occasionally bumping into one another. All set to music using the words “car” or “race.” It was cute.
Then they went and upped it a grade. Out came the Koopa shells and stuffed banana peels. The show went from a race into full-blown Mario Kart chaos. The inner kid in me geeked out bit when they started chucking the stuffed shells at one another.
Sheer awesomeness. Past the performances, the festival is mostly just two endless columns of booths. Half of them offer up fair food – unlike the American incarnation of the fair, the Japanese don’t go for the “whoa, I didn’t know you could deep fry that, gross!” factor and instead just offer up seemingly every variation of meat known to man. You got your fried chicken on a stick, your steak on a stick, your giant sausage on a stick, your entire fish on a stick, your pita filled with whatever happens to be on the grill covered in mayo. The list goes on and on. And it’s all cheap! Dangerous times. Plus, the Japanese custom of “don’t eat while walking” gets chucked out the window, so you can trot down the street AND scarf down donut-things shaped like Pickachu at the same time.
They also sold octopus balls. Blaggggggh.
The other half of booths sold various items, ranging from Hello Kitty balloons to purses to, uh, air rifles. You could even pick up an armored beetle to keep as a pet. Or, if it’s more up your alley, some Grateful Dead apparel.
The night ended with a trip up to Iga Castle. See, I can write a post that’s under a trillion words and not full of melodrama!
(Japanese Fun Fact #10: Drugs are a huge no-no in this country. Find anything on you, and us foreign types are promptly deported. The big news story right now is that some J-Pop singer got busted doing some drug [they won’t even name it!] and her life is over now, according to the news. So, for a country super antsy about it, the Japanese sure love wearing shirts with weed on them. Marijuana leaves appear on everything from t-shirts to hats. I saw an eight-year-old boy wearing shorts covered in the dankest herb. One guy just had a tee on that said “ganja” on it. I assume they just don’t know what’s going on in regards to what appears on their clothes. Though I have to admit, the Rasta Mickey shirt on sale at the festival looked pretty cool.)