First Matsuri of 2012

kakigoori - shaved ice

I’ll admit that this post is two weeks late. What can I say, I’ve been busy. In my world, ‘busy’ isn’t just the day job, it also covers drinking tea, drinking beer, and sleeping, and I’ll confess to having done all three of these in the last month. Quite often. So on with the post. On May 19th., we went to our first matsuri of the year. For those few of you who don’t know what a matsuri is, a matsuri(祭り)is a community festival, and many are held in the Summer around Japan. I like these things.

This one was a little atypical, in that it wasn’t really a community one, but one organised by the local council in a nice stretch of family oriented park down by the river. There were a few game stalls, a few food stalls, some free popcorn, free balloon animals (though I got a balloon katana and tried to claim it was for my kids), some ponies to ride, and inflatable castle, a monkey and some vegetable stands. This is typical faire, even for a small one like this, though I admit, the ponies and monkey are a little out of the norm.

Given the beautiful weather and park locale, it was a really relaxing day, starting around 10.30am, and winding down at 3pm, which again is a little unusual as matsuris tend to be afternoon and even affairs.

I enjoyed all of the bits and pieces, and we did ponder getting a house nameplate carved on the spot by a local joinery company who had a stall, but somehow managed not to. I do like kakigoori (かき氷), which is a bowl of shaved ice – not ice chunks, but very thinly sliced ice, which makes it more like snow – with some syrup added. It’s a staple of the hot summers here at these kind of things, and something to look forward to. There was a stall selling what seemed to be edible gelatinous spheres. More than that I can’t say – I didn’t try them, and though they looked nice, at least candyfloss is straight-up honest sugar.

I have to admit to not have been sure about the monkey – part of me balks at that, and kids love it, but that thick rope didn’t make it look too friendly to me. The ponies looked a little happier, and their owner didn’t pan-handle for tips.

One game involves a small paddling pool filled with water with what are referred to here as balloon yoyos – kind of water filled balloons on long elastic bands if you can visualise that. Each person gets a hook on the end of a length of tissue paper, and has to hook the elastic band and retrieve the yoyo from the water before the paper breaks. In reality the kids all get one to prevent riots.

One energetic tyke was bouncing his balloon up and down and then tried a trick at the precise time the elastic band broke, and the balloon flew off and smacked me in the face. For a second I had a mosh pit flashback for some reason, but calmly picked the balloon up as this clueless kid just stood there with his mouth doing that guppy fish thing whilst his poor grandmother had to apologise. I tossed it back to him and asked him to be more careful in the future.

So this was a gentle introduction to the fervour of the matsuri season in Japan, and I look forward to a lot more in the next few months.