If you are one of those brave people who dare to come to Japan in summer, you are in fact very lucky because you can make the once-in-a-lifetime experience of going to a Japanese summer festival!
We – my writer friends and I – decided to go to one of the biggest and most famous summer festivals in Tokyo: the “Azabu-juban Noryo Matsuri”. Translated into English this means something like “Cool summer night festival in Azabu-juban”. Well, after a sweating hot day in the city, this is where everybody longs to go!
If you want to go to a “matsuri” (= festival) like a pro, you should first get a yukata, a light, cotton kimono. Prices start at about 4000 Yen, so it is not too expensive and makes a great gift later, but you can also lend one. For the yukata sash (“obi”) the easiest version for a woman to buy is a simple sash with a pre-tied bow you clip to the sash, like the pink one in the photo above.
For men, it’s even easier. Just wrap the sash around the lower waist. Done!
Exploring the matsuri
The Azabu-juban festival takes place at the Azabu-juban shopping street close to Roppongi. During the two days of the festival, traffic is blocked in the entire shopping street area. This is for a good reason:
Vendors have their little booths on both sides of the street. There are good smelling temptations everywhere and you want to try all of these fantastic treats…then, you realize there is only a certain space in your tummy and that you’ll have to really think about what you’re going to have.
There is just sooooooooo much food!!
Not only the food but also the vendors are great. Every shop or restaurant seems to have its own booth and the vendors are so excited and happy. They will try and make you buy their treats – which they do in a very charming way. Also, at the Azabu-juban festival, you’ll find very unusual food for a Japanese festival, like chocolate truffles and bread.
To warm up, we got some Japanese beer first. For about 300Yen that was a steal!
After warming up, my friend Yena from Korea discovered a shooting game she had to try. 4 plastic bullets for 500Yen with the promise that it’s so easy that you’ll definitely win something.
Yena actually won two prices, one of them was a Japanese superhero mask. Masks belong to Japanese summer festivals. Every child wants to get one – like all children want balloons at a fair in Europe. There are very pretty traditional ones showing foxes or noh theater figures. But there are also masks with a modern approach.
Not only because of the crowded streets, but also because there were so many things to see, we actually didn’t get very far. When you visit the Azabu-juban festival, you should plan to take some time for it. There are also stages with performances, so you won’t get bored at all.
Very full but very happy we left the matsuri after it got dark. Other people were heading to the Obon-dance at Roppongi, where I would love to go to next year.
Azabu-juban Noryo Matsuri will be held again next year in August. You HAVE to come. Get your yukata and let’s go!