Being the charitable lad that i am(read: who wouldn’t want an entourage of yukata clad babes) I took a couple of the new Aussie girls yukata 浴衣 (a light summer version of a kimono) shopping the evening prior, and so donning our most babin threads we hitt the town on a shouchu/takoyaki fuelled adventure.
This was the festival map for the evening and this little engrish gem I found really amusing. Lets Just say ‘shooting-up area’ back home is generally found at 3am in a McDonalds bathroom.
On our way to Harborland we stumbled upon a small matsuri that was happening in front of Campus Square (crazy as this is like 300m from most JETs who live in Gakuentoshi’s front door).
Although quaint in size the Matsuri 祭(Japanese festival) boasted many performances and cheap food stalls (half the price they usually are at matsuri) and kids festival games.
The 4 of us being the only gaijin there and all of us wearing yukata needless to say we got many stares.
As all the signs were in kanji which we all have limited knowledge, one thing that took us a while to work out what we were doing wrong was that you had to buy tickets to exchange for food, luckily the vendors were more than understanding that we were Baka gaijin (＞人＜;)
One event I was meccha impressed by was the Taiko performance, these guys were intense!!
Anyhow we eventually escaped the lure of cheap Takoyaki/Karage and embarked on a misadventurous journey to Harborland where the Hanabi were happening in the bay.
Now this is my 3rd matsuri in as many weeks, however my first in Kobe, one thing I have noticed that is applicable to all of them thus far, is that your phone will become as useful as a paperweight once you arrive.
The mobile phone networks are simply not built to handle the sheer volume of people that flood an area during a major (this was one) matsuri, think 100,000s-1,000,000 people.
Alas if your reading this and ever considering attending a matsuri MEET YOUR FRIENDS PRIOR TO ARRIVING!
Now based upon the fact that your phone won’t work you can imagine how impossible it is to find someone amongst the literal sea of people that tend to be present (even if they are gaijin who tend to stick out everywhere)
We spent a good hour looking for our friends who we knew were within a 100m radius of us but were all but lost in the crowds. After resigning all hope of uniting with the other group we decided to simply get in on the typical matsuri festivities, drinking too much, eating crazy festival foods and watching the Hanabi 花火 (fireworks).
Japan certainly takes its fireworks seriously too, with displays usually lasting a good hour or so, also as they almost always are located in large cities filled with skyscrapers, if you get lost in the crowds without a clear view it sounds like there are air raids and the city is under attack 😄
The fireworks displays really were something else, totally magical with harborland as a backdrop! Was certainly nice to be able to experience such festivities without having to leave my home city for once, although it was missing many of the cultural aspects that are often found at other matsuri, regardless meccha tanoshii!!!! ^______^