The 10 Things I’ll Miss About Japan–No.10: Matsuri 4

mikoshi at Tenjin Matsuri


In two months, Jeff and I will be ending our contracts with our boards of education. It’s kind of hard to believe that all of a sudden our time as English teachers is just about over, and it’s gotten me thinking about all the things I love that I’m going to miss when it comes time to leave.

Things I’ll Miss #10: Matsuri (Festivals)

Matsuri are just big parties dressed up in a thousand and one ways. While the history and reasons behind any given matsuri may differ, the celebrations are generally the same. There are food and game stalls, parades, floats, dancing, and of course lots of drinking.

Matsuri are held throughout the year, but summertime sees an explosion of the merrymakings and so holds the quasi-official status of matsuri season. This weekend kicked off the season with a bang, cramming a total of seven different festivals into two days.

Every year on May 25 in Tsuruoka is the Tenjin Matsuri, a festival where volunteers dress up like ghosts and give out free sake (or green tea or juice) to the festival-goers.

receiving sake from a friendly ghost

receiving sake from a friendly ghost

There’s also a great parade with lots of dancing.

dancers in the parade

dancers in the parade

One group was even in all sorts of cosplay that made me nostalgic for my con-going days.

Attack on Titan titan

a titan waving a flag to herald the arrival of the cosplay troupe

This year also happened to be the first time that Yamagata hosted the Tohoku Rokkonsai, which is a gathering of northern Japan’s biggest 6 festivals all into one place. The collaborating festivals are Yamagata’s Hanagasa, Sendai’s Tanabata, Akita’s Kantou, Aomori’s Nebuta, Fukushima’s Waraji, and the Sansa dance from Morioka.

the stage at Rokkonsai

the Rokkonsai stage, where hots introduced all the festivals

The number of people that attended made central Tokyo look like a calm country town. We couldn’t believe how many people had made their way to our sleepy corner of Japan just to attend Rokkonsai.

waiting in the crowd for trains

we had to wait over an hour to catch the train back home (image from our Instagram feed)

Matsuri are by far one of my favorite things about living in Japan, and I know I’ll feel their absence any time anything calls for a celebration.

Have you ever been to a Japanese festival?
Want more? Check out “#9: Conbini” here!

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