Wednesday, June 14, 2006

550 Stalls

Summer in my area is ushered in by a large 3-day festival, the Hokkaido Shrine Festival. The Hokkaido Shrine is actually nowhere near my apartment, so it's somewhat baffling why the beautiful park that is practically my backyard ends up being the venue for part of the celebration.

For the thousands of young people and children who come, I suppose it's rather exciting. Other than a couple of "fun houses," the main activity is to walk around the park buying toys or junk food from the some 550 stalls that are put up the day before the festival and disappear that day after. The stalls are pretty much the same year after year, with cotton candy, "frank dogs," and "chocobananas." There are always stalls for catching goldfish with little nets; those who succeed take the fish home in little plastic bags filled with water.

For the people who live in the area, the festival means noise (especially loud speakers announcing lost children) and smells of greasy food, followed by the odor of rotting garbage and trash strewn all over. Moreover, all the crows in Sapporo seem to gather for the occasion, attracted by the mounds of leftovers.

As cynical as I may be, I have to admit that it's a colorful occasion. What's most fun is to watch all the people, ones like the young guy with shocks of white Einstein-like hair, but groomed with mousse, and the group of high school girls with their skirts hiked to the top of their thighs, grooming themselves in large hand mirrors. I especially noticed large numbers of young women in yukata. Of course, the children, in their brightly-colored clothes with cute designs such as Hello Kitty, are always delightful. If you have the chance, why don't you stop by any year on June 14th, 15th, and 16th?

No comments: