This weekend I attended the #Japanese Summer Festival in my area, called Natsu Matsuri. 🗾
Below, I'll share my experience of this unique event as I describe the various photographic moments.
In our area, the Natsu Matsuri Japanese Summer Festival is meant to help celebrate Japanese culture here, and to teach people how to appreciate the unique parts of Japanese #culture that is often missing or misunderstood in Western America. ⛩️
This event was in the parking lot of the Asian grocery market. Many of the signs were in Japanese, so I felt very alien in my own #community not knowing the language.
Still, all of the event staff were very wonderful hosts, and kids of all colors were enjoying the sunny activities together with their families. 👨👩👧👦
The very first thing I notice when I arrive is how many people are there. The parking lot of all nearby businesses were jam packed full, with many people wanting to attend.
See how every seat in the shade tent is full? Strangers and families are forced to get closer to each other if they want to stay cool on this hot day. 🎪
Under the main tent, various dancers performed in colorful traditional #costumes with masks, fans, and double swords. 🎭⚔️
I especially enjoy the women who dance as a team with the flowing movements that express the culture. Many people at the festival were wearing their special yukata, a summer style #kimono made of breathable cotton with bright floral prints.
My first goal at the event was to try out some unique foods unique to Japan.
There was octopus dumplings, shaved ice served, pastries, noodles, skewers, saké, cotton candy, grilled corn on the cob, and probably more things I couldn't read or know about. 🍘🌰🔪🐡🍊🍤🐙🍶
I wish I had a Japanese friend at this event who could have introduced me to try more things.
At this tent, the cooks were busy pouring batter and fillings into a hot steamed pan. The shape of the pan molds the batter into the shape of a cake around the filling. I tastes like a spongy pancake or a less sweet doughnut.
Had to try one for myself. No, it is not a hamburger. It is a pastry.
Inside it is filled with sweet red bean filling. Asian red beans are purple when mashed up and cooked, and sweetened so it tastes like fresh cane sugar. They also had a custard filled cake, which is like you might taste in a Bavarian cream doughnut, but I wanted to get the more authentic Japanese flavor. Yes, red bean filling please!
Children were lining up for the Japanese shaved ice. Pick three flavors. Condensed milk topping is optional. 🍧
To eat, got the yaki noodles with fried egg on top. I love yakisoba chicken, so this must be similar right?
No, it is very different, but in a good way.
These noodles had an under-the-sea spiced flavor that is hard to describe. Slightly peppery and salty, and not hot, but loaded with deep, complex flavors. The flour noodles are sticky and moist, so the flavors attach to all parts of the noodle, so every bite is loaded with flavor. 🍜
The carrots, or radish, I am not sure what it was. It looked pink-red, and tasted pickled or fermented. The little golden brown flakes were also strange to me. I think they might be some kind of dried fish or vegetable rind.
The noodles were so filling, I could not even finish half of this bowl that was the size of my hand.
Served only with chopsticks. I really like the gooey egg yolk center that glazed the noodles. The sriracha sauce gives it a little bit of heat I enjoy. 🥢
Something to wash that down with?
Yes, I'll have a peach and green tea iced drink. 🍑🥤
Would you like a scoop of ice cream added in for 50 cents more?
This drink was very mildly sweet. The ice cream soaks up and enhanced the mild flavors, and crystallizes against the ice cubes.
This was really fun to drink. Made me feel like a little kid again drinking an ice cream float. Extremely refreshing on a scalding hot day. 🍨
Looking around the rest of the tents, I found some flowers arranged artistically in vases. Is this #ikebana? 🤔💐🎕
Guess so. That's what the sign says. Didn't read it until just now. 😅
The vases are often very ornate and exotic in shape. The flowers and greenery look as though they are attempting to balance to hold still. 🌻
All around the festival were places for kids to play games and meet people. Most of the volunteers were wearing their friendly summer kimonos.
The prizes were not all that exciting, but the games were cheap and fun to play. Want to shoot a rubber band gun at targets? Maybe not at home. At the festival, you can!
The Kimono Club had a tent of their own. Here you can try on a kimono and take photos together, or you can buy one that you like. 👘🤳
The kimonos... not the girls.
Something I always notice in the crowds, especially in Asian culture, is they are not shy like I am being so close together.
Is touch and contact with strangers more innocent and acceptable in Japan?
As I try my best to walk around long lines of people and weave several tents out of the way, I am surprised by groups of friends and families who are pleasantly distracted by a friendly conversation or introduction opportunity. They pay no mind to the people like me and the dozens behind me who are stopped and have to walk many steps out of the way to get around them. They
enjoy love being in the middle of the moving crowd environment, the epicenter of the busy action. 😊
I search for a location to escape to so I can get out of the crowd and the heat to clear my thoughts and get my bearings back... 😥
Under this darkened tent, I smile as the jabber of the outside is quieted by the wall of welcoming shadows within.
So many blue pools in here.
My first thought was they look like dunk pools, the sort of mean-spirited carnival game played with a ball that hits a target to release a clown so they fall into the pool of water. No that would not make sense at this festival. 🤡
Yes, these are koi. Beautiful fish with shimmering color shades in patches of black, white, orange, and gold. 🐠🐟
Some of these fish are for sale. Some are for display only. Some were being auctioned off.
Vendors were also here to sell various pond equipment items and food to help people take care of the koi so they can live a long time. Koi are considered an investment, because they become more valuable as they become larger and more beautiful with age.
Koi are very challenging to photograph.
They are always swimming forward, constantly moving. Often times they gravitate near the bubbler, which obsures the water surface. The constant reflections create illusions. The water itself blurs.
Fortunately, is it easy to crop these photos and apply a color filter to make them easier to see.
In the back of the tent, I waved goodbye to the fish. These large hanging murals were a nice decorative touch. 🎏
Some Japanese bamboo, Japanese Maple, and other Japanese style garden plants were on display to be sold at the auction. 🌲💮
I wasn't here to buy more plants though, so I decided to see what else was going on elsewhere.
Back under the main tent, and artist performed with her traditional Japanese instruments. This three string guitar had some sort of hand-sized pick she used to strike the strings. It made a very clinky, clanky kind of sound, and the performer was able to quaver the strings so aggressively that the notes wavered sharply to harmonize with the pentatonic scales.
When she played the bamboo flute, her accompanied music was so familiar to me. I almost thought she was going to play the song "The Last Unicorn" by the band America. 🎶
Instead it was an equally lovely ballad in the same key and harmony style. The wood bamboo sounds like the recorder. A clean wood whistle. It lacks the interpretive freedom of the breathy classical metal flute, but it makes up for it in the brightness of tones.
Here, she plays a black metal flute to a song with a pentatonic scales.
Her final performance went out with a bang! 💥
On the large drum, her body motions were a dance art-form of its own. 🥁
Sometimes she would strike the drum and raise her arm like a fountain jet rising up. Other times she would smash down like a stomp. A sharp click-clack as she hits the rock-solid sides of the drum.
Hee-ya! Ya! Ya!
Complete with loud warrior princess screams, you can tell how much she enjoyed performing on the drum.
This festival would not be complete without a few contests.
Anyone up for a watermelon eating contest? 🍉
Can you guess which one of these gentlemen finished in first place?
Even the kids had their own competition. They only had to eat half a slice of watermelon. The adults had to eat two full slices.
I managed to get a video of one of these contests (I didn't know how to operate the camera very well), so check it out for some added laughs if you love kids.
After heading to the market to buy a couple bottles of #Ramune carbonated fruit drinks and a bag of turmeric roots (I'm going to try once more to get it to grow) before I leave, I say, "sayonara" to the festival.
Sometimes we need holiday festivals to renew ourselves, socially and spiritually. There is a social collective spirit that can be enjoyed if you are open to receive its gifts.
Everything at the #Natsu-Matsuri is very light-hearted, cheerful, bringing people together, and geared towards enjoying life like a child might do.
Only one thing was missing...
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Thank you for checking out my photo adventure. Share an adventure of your own, and build a better world with me.