Somewhere in Japan

Dispatch № 24: A Festival Built For Two

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Last summer, they canceled all the local festivals because of the pestilence at large. Though vaccinations are happening now in Japan, it’s slow going, and I suspect summer festivals will fall victim to the plague for a second year.

Unlike last year, though, when I just sat glumly at home, wishing I had something festive to attend, this year I will take matters into my own hands. I will make my own fun.

Festivals are reliably lovely and are my favorite cultural events of the year. The atmosphere is wonderful. There’s the food, the games, and the happy people, many of whom are wearing yukata1 or jinbei2. These are garments I sincerely believe look great on everyone, and festivals are when you see them most.

But if there are no festivals? Well then, fine. I’ll make my own surrogate festival-like experience on a personal scale.

On some balmy summer evening, I will arrive in the park just as the sun sets, well-equipped to enjoy myself.

I will drape the picnic blanket over a stone wall under a young maple tree. From one a branch, I will hang my camping lantern, which will stand in for a paper lantern. Suitable music will play on my phone at a low volume.

Next, food. I’ll prepare yakisoba ahead at home and buy karaage3 from the nearby convenience store. Takoyaki4 will come from the stand near the station, and maybe even some taiyaki5 to round things out.

These will be accompanied by cans of Asahi Super Dry, kept extra cold on ice.

But most importantly, seated next to me will be Mayumi, both of us wearing our yukata for the occasion. And while there will be no festival for us this year, we can at least remember past festivals enjoyed together and let those happy memories enrich our own small tribute to a great summer tradition.

  1. A lightweight cotton kimono for summer, typically worn in more casual settings ↩︎

  2. A traditional set of clothing worn in summer, a side-tying, short-sleeve kimono-style top and a pair of shorts ↩︎

  3. Japanese-style fried chicken ↩︎

  4. Chunks of octopus in a batter, cooked in a round molded, resulting in a golden-brown orbs of gooey, mouth-burning goodness ↩︎

  5. A fish-shaped cake filled with a sweet filling, usually red bean paste ↩︎

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Picture of David R Munson

David R Munson

Photographer, essayist, wanderer, weirdo. Everything is interesting if you give it an honest chance to be.

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