Azabu Jyuban matsuri
Azabu Juban Noryo festival is the climax of Tokyo’s summer festive season. It rounds up all major fireworks and street events. The main purpose of such festival is to keep the traditions alive by performing various arts, wearing yukata, playing old Showa games and eating local specialties.
It is a lot of fun, only more often it is really hard to enjoy due to unbelievable amount of people invading the place. Narrow Tokyo streets are filled with so many people, you can hardly move, let alone buy something. I had to stand in line for almost everything. It also took us two hours to walk from the beginning of the street to its end.
I’ve been visiting the festival every year since 2004 when Laura took me there for the first time. We were still doing Sma-station live show every Saturday at TV Asahi which is right next to the festival’s location. I was wearing my beautiful cornflowers yukata and pink geta. Since then, me and Sma-girls were going to the festival every year right before the show.
Besides, watching various performances or participating in the official ceremony of carrying an “Omikoshi” to the local shrine (this year I came too late to enjoy either one of them), what you can do at the festival is basically this:
1. You can play “Catch a goldfish” or “Catch a turtle” game using a paper spoon. If you happen to carry the fish out of the tank using your paper spoon, you can keep it. Unfortunately half of the fish dies before you can reach your home and put it in a proper environment. However, my friend Hiro caught 5 little “kingyo” last year and now they are so big and beautiful. 500 yen that he spent on catching a fish turned into a very expensive hobby (a tank, seaweed, fish food etc.) ^-^
2. You can dress up. During Showa period, I guess masks were something of an attribute to the whole summer festival costume, maybe close to a masquerade in Europe. Now, the tradition is lost, at least in Tokyo but they still sell masks for children. Only instead of traditional Kitsune mask, now you get to wear Thomas the train! ^-^
And of course yukata is the “must” item for any matsuri in Japan. Girls go distance to look their best. The proper full yukata attire can easily cost 20000 yen and even more if your yukata carries a brand name. They also make a matching pattern on their nails and create elaborate hairstyles carefully chosen out of “Yukata hair 2010” catalogs. Japanese girls are very particular and although it often is very annoying, you can’t deny the fact that their effort pays off. Here is one of the AD pictures I could find on the web.
3. You can also play “Catch a yo-yo” game using a hook and a paper holder. The trick is to catch a yo-yo’s string without making your paper wet, otherwise it tears off. Our friend Jun did his best to get me one! Yay! ^-^ There are many other games like shooting for the prize, fortune telling, lottery etc. If you happen to visit a festival that is not as crowded as this one, you should definitely try everything. Even if you loose, you get to keep something. ^-^
4. The rest of the activity is eating and drinking. Street food in Japan is delicious and some of it you can only try at such festivals. Big matsuri often offers not only local specialties but also delicious treats from other prefectures like “Hiroshima yaki”.
Here, we are eating respectively – caramelized apple, pickled cucumber and caramelized strawberry. ^-^
And of course Corona beer, only at a triple price. ^-^
Lots and lots of seafood
and meat! You can actually buy your meat by telling which part of the cow or pork you prefer. ^-^
These two ladies are making yakisoba – fried noodle with vegetables and soy sauce. This is the popular stand that ran out of the food before the festival was over. ^-^
Octopus on skewers had a huge line of people so I didn’t try one.
Takoyaki balls fried with vegetables and dough. Usually you only get a small piece of octopus in every ball but this one had the whole thing – a baby taco in it.
My favorite “tomorokoshi” – fried corn with salt and butter.
Ayu fish fried with salt.
In the evening, me, Gow and Jun also met Lille and Ben who couldn’t move any farther than La Boheme square. ^-^
Overall, I really enjoyed the matsuri – I just wish it wasn’t either so hot or so crowded. ^-^