Although festivals are most common in summer, you can find festivals around Japan all throughout the year. In spring, cherry blossom festivals pop up all over the country. The Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (Sapporo Snow Festival) is one of the most famous festivals in Japan, and takes place in the height of winter. As for autumn, I recently attended the Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival, a wonderful traditional festival which I highly recommend!
|New life goal: get to ride on top of one of these.|
|The craftsmanship that goes into these floats is unbelievable.|
When the yatai meet each other along the road, you will hear them "battle" each other. Each band must play their music without being distracted by the opposing band. It's really fun to watch, and as the night progresses, the yatai battles get more intense. In the evening, with the streets and yatai lit up by lanterns, multiple yatai battle each other at one time.
The Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival was a super interesting and enjoyable day. I loved getting to experience such a traditional festival, and exploring a little of the town of Kanuma. The people there were really friendly and welcoming, and there were plenty of nice cafes, stalls, and more peaceful areas to take a break from the main action. I also had the chance to watch students from a high school in Kanuma (where a friend of mine teaches) perform a reading of a book about Japanese festivals, in English. The author and artist of the book, Ise Hideko, was also watching the performance. She is a lovely lady who seemed really happy to share the story of the festival with us foreigners. The story and pictures were so wonderful that afterwards I went and bought the book. It's a very sweetly told story about how yatai are made, and is full of amazing watercolour illustrations. The book is called まつり / matsuri / festival, and you can buy it yourself from amazon Japan, here, or see many of her books on her amazon.com author's page here. I'm hoping to find an English translation, but I haven't had any luck yet. My Japanese isn't really good enough to read the whole book, but I love just admiring the pictures and remembering the nice memories of that day. Here's a couple of pages from the book:
|Matsuri by Ise Hideko.|
|Ise Hideko's illustrations look as though the page really is glowing with lantern-light!|
If you're ever in Japan during autumn, I hope you can make it to the Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival! It was a truly unique day for me, and I saw many new sights I won't soon forget.
Til next time,