Saturday, October 26, 2013

Matsuri! A Small Festival in Iwata

On October 12th Jonathan and I were invited to a small neighborhood festival in Iwata. Some neighborhoods in Iwata had their festivals the weekend before (the same weekend I went to the Backstreet Boys concert) and I had wondered what they were about.  

It was a nice day, so Jonathan and I biked from his apartment to the festival. It took about an hour and a half.

After eating a big, delicious lunch we stopped by the neighborhood shrine and headed out to help pull a float. I learned that the festival is for giving thanks for the harvest and other things.

The float is pulled through the neighborhood and has to pass by every house. The people on the float play music. At one point the music stopped and we were told it was because someone had died in the past year. The people in that family can't participate in the festival that year. 

The previous weekend I had seen many floats being pulled around my apartment and didn't really understand the point. It seemed a bit boring to just pull around a float all day. Well, we pulled it around a little bit, then stopped to eat, pulled it around a big more, ate some more, and so on. There was so much food! The first time we stopped I had a popsicle. The second time I was handed something that I had no clue what it was, but it ended up being fried quail eggs on a stick which were delicious!

At one point we stopped at a nursing home and many of the residents took pictures by the float. At this point I ate a mikan, which I've been told is a tangerine or a mandarin orange or something, I don't know the difference. I hate eating oranges, but I like mikan. 

This little cart with food and drinks was pulled behind the bigger float. 

Then we headed back to the shrine where there was even more food! Despite being pretty full already, people kept offering food to Jonathan and I. I had kakigori (shaved ice with flavored syrup and condensed milk), yakitori (chicken on a stick), edamame, and a couple other things I'm probably not remembering right now.

I was really full, but then someone brought out a melon cut in half and gave Jonathan and I each a half. It was grown by one of the men there at the festival. He has several greenhouses and they're really fancy and controlled by computers so that they grow in perfect conditions. We were told that the melons sell in Tokyo for 8,000 yen! That's about 80 dollars!

So despite being full, I couldn't refuse such a special gift. Luckily melon is not very filling and I had no trouble eating it. I'm not a huge melon fan, but I enjoy it every once in a while and it was a good melon. Though I can't imagine paying 8000 yen for one!

Also, we had some pickled baby melons. Three melons grow on each plant but only one can be allowed to grow to full size so the tiny ones are pickled. They were really delicious! I would never guess that they were baby melons.

Once it was dark we headed out again to pull the float to another location. Five or Six neighborhoods pulled their floats all to one location. Once we got there, some speeches were given (that most people didn't really pay attention to). Even Jonathan and I were asked to say something on stage, hahaha. I just said that I had had fun at the festival and thank you. Then of course we ate some more. I had an onigiri (rice ball) and some pear. 

The float looked really neat with the lanterns lit up at night! 

It had been a really fun day and I was already a bit tired, but Jonathan and I had to bike back to his apartment. It was really windy and we took a different way (because going through the dark woods at night would be scary!) than we had come that morning so it took us about two hours. It was sooooo windy! At some points we just had to walk our bicycles. With all that biking and walking and pulling I was pretty sore the next day! But it was worth it!

This picture is from a house near by apartment the previous weekend. Many houses around Iwata and Hamamatsu had these pink flowers and I wondered what their purpose was. I learned that they symbolize happiness and they're made by handicapped people and sold to people participating in the festival. They're really cute! :)

I didn't want to carry my camera around during the festival, so I only had my cell phone. I took a video and I'm not sure how to transfer it to my computer, plus I'm sure it's horrible anyways since I took it at night. I took some videos of the floats around my apartment the previous weekend so here's a video of those:

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