Na (な) – Natsu Matsuri- Summer Festivals in Japan

Aiueo Blog “Summer Festivals” Na – Natsu matsuri
Hello everyone! We have finally reached the turn around “Na” column of the Japanese alphabet. For this time of year, “Na” makes us think of, yes,  (夏) “Natsu”  or “Summer. For this installment, we have written about “Summer Festivals” that make Japan’s hot summer even hotter. Having said that, there is no fun in introducing regular festivals! So, we’re going to introduce Japan’s “weird festivals” that will make you go “What? What on Earth is this festival??”Let’s start from the north!

Before that, if you haven’t checked it out, read our guide on how to stay cool during the summer in Japan!

Hokkaido Belly Button Festival (Hokkaido)
Doroinkyo Festival (Saitama Prefecture)
The Omi Nakayama “?” Competition Festival (Shiga Prefecture)

Hokkaido Belly Button Festival (Hokkaido)

北海へそ祭り (Hokkaido Hesomatsuri)
Date: July 28th, 2018 (Sat) – July 29th, 2018 (Sun)
Great for watching! Great for dancing! A fun festival that welcomes unexpected entries. For the festival’s main event, the “Zuhara Dance”, a face is painted on people’s belly (へそ), and they dance while hiding their faces with a big umbrella. In addition to this, the best dancer gets a prize of 100,000 yen! Unexpected entrants are welcome! You too should show off the belly button you’re so proud of! (laughs)

For the next festival, it’s on to the Kanto region.

Doroinkyo Festival (Saitama Prefecture)

どろいんきょ祭り (Doroinkyo Matsuri)
Date: July 15th, 2018 (Sun)
This is a festival where a mikoshi みこし (or portable shinto shrine) gets splashed with water and rolled around on top of mud, with mikoshi and people all covered in mud to pray for good harvest and banish evil spirits. And really, with so much mud, we wouldn’t be surprised if the evil spirits decided to run away! (laughs) Spectators also get mercilessly covered in mud, so bring a change of clothes and a towel!

And finally, a summer festival from the Kansai region!

The Omi Nakayama “?” Competition Festival (Shiga Prefecture)

Date: September 2nd, 2018 (Sun)
And now, our regular quiz. In this festival, the city divides into East and West sections, and as two teams – the city competes in front of an enshrined God – who determines the “length” of a certain thing.
So, what is this thing?
*** Time to think ***
That’s it!
So, let’s reveal the answer!
The answer is –  “Potato!” (いも) (More specifically, a specific variety of potato called “Satoimo”, or taro.)
I wonder why the gods care about the length of taro?… This festival is said to have started in the Heian period, but there nobody actually knows for sure why they compete over the length of taro. On the day of the festival, they choose the biggest taro that was harvested on the east and west regions and tie to bamboo. Then, they compare the taros’ length in the mountains where the gods live and thereafter choose the winner. If the west wins, it’ll be a good harvest, but if the east wins, it’s a failed harvest. So I guess the gods support the west team!
In addition to the ones we introduced today, Japan has many unique festivals. This summer, make sure to take part in a festival and enjoy a new facet of Japan!
If you do win the 100,000 yen prize, please send a photo to Coto
About this week’s author:
Ayana Nezu has a long history in education and training.  In 2017, she joined Coto Japanese Academy – her first time in a Japanese Language School.  She currently is based at our Azabu Japanese Club location and is recently obsessed with Rakugo.

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