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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The sights, sounds, and tastes of Matsuri

浜田祭り

Summer Matsuri season is in full swing, and this weekend we went to the port town of Hamada.

Listen to the sound of festival hawkers

Girls in yukata

With a population of 60,000, Hamada is big enough to support a MacDonalds, but not big enough to have a cinema. Even so its the biggest town around here, and its matsuri draws visitors from the surrounding countryside.

Children in yukata, Hamada Festival

Maybe because out here in the hinterland we lack the plethora of shiny baubles and distractions that "sophisticated" cities need to offer their inmates, but small town matsuri seem altogether more exciting and friendly.

Squid for 200 yen

This year's matsuri offered 130 stalls offering the usual variety of ways to spend your money. Like carnivals and fairs anywhere, the hawkwers keep up a steady stream of calls to entice you to try their wares.

There are plenty of stalls offering cheap, gaudy, made-in-China plastic toys for the kids, stalls for catching goldfish, plenty of stalls selling iced beer, but most of the stalls are offering food.

Hamada is a fishing port whose main catch is squid. Squid are shipped from here all over the country as well as exported, so its not surprising that grilled squid on a stick is offered.

I'm pretty sure octopus don't have testicles, so octopus balls must be referring to the shape of these octopus-filled pancakes.

Takoyaki

Yakitori is probably the classic matsuri food. In a tiny village matsuri sporting only one stall, it will be a yakitori stall.

Also on offer are the classic American foods of French Fries and giant wieners on sticks. Just to show how international we are in the countryside I even saw one stall selling Mexican Tacos.

yakitori

Once the sun begins to set a variety of entertainments are offered on stage, and the finale of the evening is a firework display, this year featuring 5,000 fireworks, but until then time is spent eating, drinking, bumping into friends, and admiring the pretty girls in their yukata.

Festivals in Japan

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