One of my best and most traditional experiences in Japan! Chi, a Japanese friend invited us to a traditional festival in Karatsu Japan on Kyushu Island. Of course we said yes and my sister and I were picked up on a raining morning with another American friend and Chi to hit the road. We were zipping along in seconds and I feel like in Japan the towns are so close but because the speed limit is always so slow and the roads are so narrow and the roads zig and zag it is always hard to get to where you are going quickly.
Karatsu is a town close to Saga and holds the biggest Autumn festival of Kyushu island every year. Karatsu is composed of 14 cho’s (neighborhoods) which each have a giant float made of plastic and lacquer. Each year someone in the cho is chosen to ride on top of the float and a big group of the young men and women and children pull the floats through the city with long ropes while they beat drums and play music. It was amazing!
Before the parade started we went to a traditional Japanese house for dinner. During the festival which lasts the whole week, there is much food prepared to celebrate. A large fish is cooked under hot coals for 3 days time and there are just platters of everything. We came inside the house, removed our shoes, and were ushered to sit down at a low table laden with food. We were then given small bowls and dishes to try the food to our hearts content. One of the men even let us try on his silk robe that was embroidered with war fighters! He had already drank a bit too much sake. haha.
When we left that house the guy in the silk robe followed us out and insisted that we come across the street to his home. We tried our hardest to politely decline but he wasn’t having it so off we went, up to his house, to the surprise of his family. They were very nice and passed around a soup for us to try with mushrooms, greens, and rice cakes. We didn’t stay long since our group had about 9 people and we had yet another place to get to.
We headed back into the town and got a cab ride to a restaurant that one of the Japanese people knew the owner and it turns out we were ushered into the closed restaurant to be served personally by the chef. The chef’s wife also asked me to help interview her son in English for a class project. Of course I accepted.
By the time we tried all of the delicious foods he had prepared for us, I was completely stuffed. At this time the rain had started to pick up outside pitter-pattering down the roof tops. They allowed us to borrow umbrellas and then we were off walking towards the center of town for the parade.
The streets were a sight to be hold! Every cho was dressed in their silk robes representing their neighborhood and we lined up in the streets with everyone else as one of the floats rounded the corner. It was magnificent. Apparently they hold the parade for hours but because of the rain they were bringing the floats to the center of the town and getting them inside out of the weather so they wouldn’t get ruined. What a great festival and parade!
I ended the day at a stand buying a banana dipped in chocolate on a stick. We were kindly given a ride back to our car and hit the road for home. Chi had stayed behind with her friends so it was just the American crew on the way back. We got lost about 8 different times which is the usual over here. haha.
This is one of my most favorite Japanese experiences so far!