Last year, my friends and I visited the “Minato Citizens’ Festival” for the first time. We had a lot of fun there so we had to go again this year! “Minato Citizens’ Festival” is a big local festival in Tokyo. At the festival, you can experience Japanese culture and try dishes from countries all around the world. You are travelling with kids? Great! There are a lot of games and activities for children, too. So, let’s go!
This year’s “36th Minato Citizens’ Festival” was held on October 7th (Sat) and October 8th (Sun) around Shiba-koen (Shiba Park) in the Minato Ward in Tokyo. The festival venue was even larger than last year and it was divided into several areas. I visited the “Zojoji area” and “Tokyo Prince Hotel area”.
On our way towards Zojoji temple from Daimon Station, a parade was just taking place moving slowly through the city. There were furry mascots mostly used for promotional purposes – called “yurukyara” in Japanese -, and various dance teams performing traditional dances. We walked with the parade and suddenly found ourselves in front of the main gate of Zojoji temple.
When a temple turns into a big music stage
There were a lot of booths everywhere on the temple grounds. Every booth had a different topic, like recycling or life-saving measures. There even was a booth with rescue dogs and therapy dogs.
The highlight of this area was the special stage in front of the temple’s main hall. They had a variety of live performances, such as Japanese drums (wadaiko). When we arrived, a steel pan band was playing “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid”. Local grandpas and grandmas were sitting on benches in front of the stage and moving their feet rhythmically to the music. What a peaceful sight!
Japanese culture experiences for free
The “Tokyo Prince Hotel Area” was next to Zojoji. You just had to cross one road (leading to Tokyo Tower and another area). At the hotel area, there were food stalls with international dishes and some booths where you could try some Japanese traditional arts for free. First of all, I played a Japanese instrument called “koto” (zither). Thanks to my teachers’ support, I managed to play the probably most famous Japanese song “Sakura” to the end. The score of a koto is completely different Western music scores: the tempo is not fixed, and instead of whole and half notes you just get the numbers of the 13 strings written in Chinese symbols (kanji).
Next, I challenged the shamisen which is a three-stringed instrument. Again, the song of our choice was was “Sakura”. In the case of a shamisen, you don’t have any frets like you have on a guitar to help you find the right tone. You need a good hearing because you’ll have to play while constantly checking the pitch with your own ears.
Moreover, since you use a kind of paddle to pull the strings, playing shamisen is quite difficult for beginners. The teacher told me: “It usually takes about three years to learn how to play well.” However, since koto and shamisen are very nice instruments with a beautiful intriguing sound, I would definitely like to play again! There weren’t only Japanese instruments, but also booths where you could wear a kimono, or try Ikebana (flower arrangement). It was so nice to be able to experience so many Japanese instruments and arts in just one day… and everything was for free.
Still so much to see…
After our Japanese intruments experience, we went on exploring the area. We saw a British balloon artist ‘s street performance and had some delicious Chinese dumplings and German sausages. As it was quite late, we left the venue. There was still so much we didn’t see, like the “Tokyo Tower area” where you could try out different types of sports…
Next year, I will come back! then, I’ll try to conquer all areas – even if it takes me two days 😉 How about you? “Minato Citizens’ Festival” is a fun festival for the whole family and I would definitely check it our if you are in Tokyo in October 2018. See you then!!
Minato Citizens’ Festival 2017 HP: