A couple of weeks ago, I went to my first Japanese festival. It was an absolute epic experience. It was the 31st Minami Koshigaya Awa Odori (Dance) Festival. The festival was held just outside of Minami Koshigaya station. I went to the festival with one of my friends, N. She is also a new participate on the JET program who flew over with me from Australia. I must say, Japan really does know how to put on a good show. It was one of the most colourful and culturally exotic experiences I have had in my life so far.
Both N and I arrived at the station and found out from speaking with of the ground staff for the festival that it the parade starts at 5:00pm. He further explained that the dancing would begin on all the streets in the area. Looking at the event map he gave us – obviously in Japanese – we were not sure where it the parade would begin… because surely there was a starting point. Hence, we walked around and decided to sit on the side of one of the main roads from the train station. To our surprise, this was the best decision ever. Just imagine, you sitting on the concrete road for about 1 hour and no one is around, except the guarantee that the festival is definitely going to happen later in the day. After that wait, a crowd started to build up and all of a sudden when the clock stroke 6pm, a ground staff lays out this white plastic material all along both sides of the road and tell you to move and sit on that. Next, the parade started.
People in the parade were wearing the most interesting and beautiful yukatas I had ever seen. They were dancing and calling out words that I did not understand. Furthermore, following after the dancing group, there would be a group of people who would be playing music. We were all sorts of colourful outfits woren in the most amazing patterns you can imagine. To my knowledge, the parade group was made up of different groups that seems to have represented different families and businesses. Each presented group had their set of people who danced and played instruments such as drums, the flute, and so on. Each presented group also had their own custom.
Altogether, it was the most bizarre and awesome experience ever. Bizarre because I never thought we would be sitting so close to the starting point of the parade and had just great seating with that plastic on the ground to safe us from sitting directly on the floor! I have never experience this in any parade in Australia before and cannot imagine it ever happening! To further top the experience, we not only had great seats and view, but at certain times when the people in the parade walked by, they would pose for us!!! We are people as young as 3 or 4 years old up to 70 or 80 dancing and celebrating in the parade. It did rain at the festival a bit, but it did not affect the atmosphere.
Apart from the parade, there was also Japanese food stalls set up around the area. We ate so much that evening and everything was so cheap! I am so looking forward to more festivals in Japan and hopefully one day, I will get to wear a yukata at one!
For more photos of the festival, look here.