this one takes a lot of skill, he's wearing the traditional geta (sandals) and walking on the log!
Sunday was a jam-packed day (being my one day off in the week, I like to make the most of it). It started at the annual Koto-kumin Matsuri happening only a 5 minutes walk from my place. A matsuri is a Japanese festival or celebration, and as you know, I live in Koto-ku or Koto ward, so this festival was in celebration of the residents of Koto-ku. Like most matsuris, there was plenty of food, drink, singing, dancing, and perhaps the most memorable part, kaku-nori, or log-riding. Kiba has a very spacious park, perfect for such festivities.
Kiba used to be a lumberyard back in Edo Japan. Situated on the river, they would move the lumber from place to place via the rivers. Of course, this was at a time before motor-powered boats ever made their way into Japan, so instead of using traditional techniques to keep the logs from straying too far off course - traditional meaning, I don't know, maybe swimming with the logs, or tying them together and guiding them down stream - they would paddle them.
the oni who made little kids cry
..like a bicycle. So, in celebration of this historical tradition, every year at the Koto matsuri, brave men and women pay homage to their ancestors by performing the kaku-nori in the municipal pool, and for the enjoyment of the festival-goers. Rather than describe it in more detail, please check the video below. As you can guess, the most exciting part is watching them lose their balance and fall into the water. (Note: the hand stands are just showing off, I doubt that they actually did such things in Edo period Japan)
Perhaps the best part of a Japanese matsuri is the food. There's so many different types, not like your standard fair-food in America. Yakisoba, yakitori, grilled and smoked fish, soup, barbecued scallops, and a wide range of beer and sake make the menu.
corn dogs eat your heart out
I tried some smoked Ayu, kind of like small mackerel, and yaki-scallops. They were both delicious. I also picked up a bottle of nama-sake, one of my favorites. Sake in Japan is very cheap and widely available. Of course, the only other people who seemed to be buying it were either old folks or mothers.
Some of the other highlights include (but not limited to): a small kiddy-train (that was made to look like the bullet train), the 3-man band who were dressed up in traditional wear, and my personal favorite, the two men dressed up as oni (or Japanese folklore demons). Unlike most mascots in Japan, these two characters did not seem to be attracting a large line of kids to take their photos with. However, all the adults wanted to take photos with them, and for some reason, they thought it would be hilarious to drag their kids with them.
look carefully at his feet
It was almost instantaneous that as soon as the terrified child saw the two oni, they started balling their eyes out. Again, watch the video on this one, note the number of crying kids in the background.
Afterward, I high-tailed it down to Yokohama
(about 45mins south of Tokyo) for the last day of Oktoberfest. Held in the famous "red-brick warehouse" section on the waterfront, this 10-day festival was packed to the max with Japanese, Germans, and anyone else who wanted to drink beer and eat sausage. A fun place to be, but just don't mention the war!
I was amazed at the selection of beer! They had maybe about 10 different breweries mostly from Germany, however there were some of the local Japanese breweries selling their own Oktoberfest beers as well.
Admission was 200yen, but the beers ranged in price, the cheapest being around 700yen to the most expensive, 3000yen (that's about $30 USD)! Unlike the last Oktoberfest I went to, you have to put a deposit down for a real mug or glass. You can return it later and get your deposit back, or keep the glass as a souvenir (a great idea that cuts back on the amount of plastic cup waste, and that makes it a more classy - if not a slighty more dangerous - affair). They had quite a variety of mugs and pilsner glasses so, naturally, I couldn't resist and brought back a Yokohama brewery glass. Once again, like the horse races, this was a family affair and I saw plenty of children running around, stuffing sausages into their faces and looking like they were having a good time.
yokohama is famous for it's waterfront and massive ferris wheel
The band was (most likely) a group of German expats or German-enthusiast expats, dressed in lederhosen and playing their bouncing Bavarian music. No matter where in the world you are, Oktoberfest is exactly the same. There's always that same communal song to sing along with, sway your mug high in the air, and end with a toast. The festival ran until 9pm, but I decided to leave before things got too festive. Perhaps staying would've revealed to me the real spirit of Oktoberfest in Japan. Nonetheless, Yokohama is a great place and I'm going to try and make more trips down here in the future!