While in town for work we were lucky enough to be around for the Miya Matsuri festival in Utsunomiya, Japan. It occurs on the first Saturday and Sunday of August each year. The festival started in 1976 when Japan was going through some slow economic growth as a way to encourage people to get out of their houses and interact. Since we were exploring Tokyo on Saturday we went to the festival on Sunday evening. We headed out in the evening to get food from the street vendors for dinner. There were so many options ranging from fried chicken to squid and rice to my favorite, the simple but refreshing pineapple on a stick!
The parade was definitely different than the ones I’m used to in the US: instead of different large decorated floats carrying people that pass you one time, there were 2 main sections of parade that went in circles up and down the street taking breaks at various times. One section had dancers, at the beginning of the festival they were all dressed in kimonos dancing the same traditional moves to the music but towards the end of the night the music got livelier with each group dancing their own variations to the same music. There were even groups of little kid dancers!
The other segment of the parade was designated to people carrying a mikoshi, a portable Shinto shrine. The mikoshi is taken from the shrine during the festival to be carried around the worshiping neighborhood on peoples shoulders. At this festival the mikoshi carriers bounced up and down and swayed side to side while carrying them. It is said that it is to amuse the deity inside! On some of the mikoshi women or children stood on the carrying posts chanting and waving fans or items in celebration!
I was so glad that the Miya Matsuri festival was happening while we were there – visiting a festival in Japan was an unforgettable experience!