Summer Festivals

So apparently, in Japan, summer is the time for festivals. Two weeks ago my friend and I attended a local summer festival right down the street, and last weekend we attended (and participated in!) the summer festival held at the kindergarten at which we work. I took some photos and videos to document these occasions, so feel free to peruse them and learn more about summer festivals in Japan!

First, the local festival. There were all sorts of vendors lined up along the street, selling yakitori (meat on a stick), takoyaki (fried octopus), shaved ice, cotton candy, and more. This was my favorite stall:

Many people, especially girls, were dressed in yukata. So pretty!

The main event, it seemed, was a dance. There were music performers up on a high stage, and below the stage was the dance.  The participants were mostly young children and some young men, who I highly suspect were not totally sober. Here’s a clip of the dance:

We were hoping there would be more of a variety of events, but unfortunately this was about the extent of it. The music – and the steps – were repeated over and over. And over. For more than an hour! After the dance, some people passed out candy to the kids, and then another musical performance started, which appeared to be repetitive as well. At which point we decided we’d had our fill of the festival and it was time to head home. 🙂

The next weekend’s event, the kindergarten summer festival, was a lot more fun. Our employers asked for several of us American teachers to volunteer at a face painting booth, which apparently has been a big hit in years past. I signed up for an hour, and it turned out to be a lot of fun! I’d never even attempted face painting before, but once I got in the swing of it, I really enjoyed it. The hour I worked was the first hour of the festival, and we had nonstop lines of kids coming to get a painted design (there were three teachers painting at a time). The hour flew by and I couldn’t believe it when it was over!

Entrance to the school
Face painting this cutie while her sibling watches!

After fulfilling my painting duties, I was free to enjoy the rest of the festival however I wished. I was given some vouchers for food, so I “purchased” some bread, ice cream, and flavored milk. I also went and watched the dancing that was held in the gym. Each group of students (three-year-olds, four-year-olds, and five-year-olds, respectively) took turns dancing, with their teachers and some costumed characters as guides.

The five-year-olds, after being lined up, moved around the stage to form a circle:

The four-year-olds got to dance with Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Who did the five-year-olds get….?

…why, Mario, of course!

I felt really bad for the teachers who were dancing. The gym was crowded, and even just standing and watching, I was sweating. The teachers dressed up in their yukata – and even worse, the costumed people wearing masks – must have been ready to die!

Well, now I’ve had my first taste of Japanese summer festivals. It’s so much fun to experience yet a different aspect of Japanese culture. It fascinates me how each culture can be so different and have such different traditions. I guess that’s what makes the world such an interesting place!

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