Sunday, July 1, 2012


This past weekend was a special treat for me as I got to experience my first real local matsuri or festival.

The matsuri is known for its 獅子舞い (shishimai), which is the lion dance. The vice principal at one of my schools suggested it a few months ago as a thing I might find interesting.

I nearly missed it though! The shishimai is only held the first weekend of June, and I nearly forgot that this weekend was the date. Luckily, many of my kids were also going and were thoughtful enough to remind/ask me if I was also going.

This was a bustling and cozy matsuri. The shrine itself, perhaps spacious on a regular day, was crammed with people and stalls selling foods and doing typical festival games.

I also bumped into quite a few of my kids since 3 of my 4 schools were relatively close by (about 15 minutes by bike). It was quite nice to see them outside of the confines of the classroom and just enjoying themselves without the restrictions of a teacher.

The shrine where the matsuri was held is called 戸ヶ崎香取神社 (Togasaki Katori Shrine). It's an incredibly beautiful shrine in and of itself. I think it's also one of the larger shrines in the area, and it actually has live-in caretakers who have clearly been doing their job.

The interior of the shrine had a very warm cozy feeling, although I may also attribute that to the smoke coming from the grills that were from all the food stalls.

The architecture was also incredible with the beautiful handwork and carvings that were everywhere you turned. If the beams weren't so high up, I would've liked to get even closer to touch the wood work.

Of course, I can't forget the most important aspect of this festival--the shishimai.

I was honestly expecting something closer to the Chinese lion dance that I grew up watching every Chinese New Year, so the fact that it was completely different was a pleasant surprise.

Since it'd be much easier to simply watch it, here are some videos of the different dances.

Every once in a while, paper fortunes were also tossed at the lions for good luck.

Besides the shishimai, there was also a dance from the maiko. It was lovely and was another great chance to see traditional folk performances.

The festival was definitely a great first experience, and it was also nice that it was hyper local. Many of the attendees had been coming here for years, and all the kids I met with said they made it a point to attend the festival each year.

Switching gears, JL also came to town, and it was very awesome seeing her! We met for dinner and had okonomiyaki.

The last time I had seen JL was when I met her and NL in San Francisco after work. This time, JL and I joked about our next meeting, which would, again, be half way around the world.

Meanwhile, it's getting late here, so I'll leave you with one more picture (it isn't food!?!?).

Till next time!

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