No matter what time of the year it is, there seems to be a “matsuri” or “festival” going on in some part of Japan. “Matsuris” can be broadly classified into two – seasonal and religious. It is during the religious festivals that a “palanquin” or “Mikoshi” is taken around the surrounding area of a Shinto shrine. Some local shrines allow kids and foreigners too to participate in carrying the “Mikoshi”. At least in cases that I have seen the whole exercise seemed like a huge community activity. At the end of it, the kids who helped are given snacks and sweets. “Mikoshi” pulling is so similar to the “Temple car” pulling that we do in Tamil Nadu – the difference being that in Tokyo it seemed less religious and more community driven.
Both “seasonal” and “religious” festivals have rows and rows of food stalls and game stalls – think choco bananas, takoyaki and yakisoba stalls jostling for space with “sakana sukui” (fish scooping),Shiyateki(target shooting),Wanage (ring tossing) stalls. Cheerful and noisy youngsters dressed in Yukatas add to the overall festive flavor. “Taiko” drums can be heard well into the night.
The morning after the festival, one suddenly notices that the stalls have all been cleared. The roads are clean with no sign of the previous days festivities – the whole area is enveloped in eerie silence interrupted now and then only by the clickety clack of an office girl’s/salary man’s heels as they’re rushing to the station….leaving one wondering if all the noise and revelry of the previous evening was just a dream.