Festivals of Japan
Julian Ryall reveals his three favourite Japanese festivals
Translate the following paragraphs into Chinese.
AS A nation of hard workers, the Japanese take their festivals very seriously. Hardly a day goes by when a village or town somewhere in the country is not busy celebrating.
The most well known are the hanami cherry-blossom viewing parties in the spring, but the festivities can be in honour of anything from local deities to appeals for a good rice harvest and can involve mass displays of hot-air balloons, traditional kites or acrobatic displays atop tall ladders by firemen. There is even the Jibeta Matsuri, or penis festival, a fertility rite held each spring in the Tokyo suburb of Kawasaki.
Visitors are welcomed at festivals, but be warned: some — such as the rough-and-tumble race through Osaka’s narrow streets by teams of as many as 100 men pulling huge danjiri floats every July — can end in casualties.
THREE OF THE BEST
Cherry blossom: Held across the country whenever the cherry trees decide to flower. Best place in Tokyo is Ueno Park, where thousands of revellers stretch out tarpaulins, dust off the portable karaoke machines, pour out the beers and saké — and then fall asleep when they’ve had too much. (www.whatsonwhen.com/events/~49967.jml)
Tanabata Star Festival: According to the tale, the one night of the year (July 7) when two star-crossed lovers are able to meet. Held across Japan, but one of the largest is in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa prefecture, west of Tokyo. www.web-jpn.org/atlas/festivals/fes05.html
Sapporo Snow Festival: Winters are bitter in the far north, but the people of Hokkaido have turned that to their advantage. Fortified with the local Sapporo beer, they spend two weeks in early February carving huge ice sculptures in the city’s Odori Park. Subjects range from enormous, intricate replicas of St Paul’s Cathedral to the Vatican and the Eiffel Tower. www.snowfes.com/english/index_e.html