Festival Special: Takayama Fall Festival

This week was the famous Takayama fall festival, where they bring out these huge festival floats, or portable shrines, and parade them through the old part of town. It’s kind of cool to see them, since they are super heavy and covered in gold and a group of men is pushing it/pulling it down the streets and there is an evening parade with all these paper lanterns lit up. The lanterns are what make it cool at night, and they are actually lit with real candles. I watched twice as a guy with a handful of candle sticks went around to some and folded the paper down carefully, then change out the candles. And everyone is wearing these traditional old outfits and Japanese-style hats. It was extremely Japanese and something I feel like I would only see in a National Geographic magazine or a PBS tv special.

Our usually sleepy town was pretty exciting for once (after 6:30 it gets pretty quiet around here!). My classes ended at 6pm just as the evening events were starting, so I headed over to see what was going on. Many streets were closed to cars, so people were walking all over the place & tons of police were out (but as usual, not really doing anything very police-like).

The best part about the festival though, was the food tents set up for about 4 really long blocks, with all kinds of foods and sweets. There was takoyaki, small donut-holes, grilled beef skewers, chicken kebabs, and candied fruits. There were crepes stuffed with fruit, whip cream, ritz crackers, oreos, chocolate sauce, and much much more. There was yakisoba (grilled noodles), okonomiyaki, kakigori (crushed ice like a snow cone!), bananas covered in chocolate, fries, fried chicken, mashed potatos, cotton candy, and grilled squids & other fish on sticks & grilled. If I had to guess, I’d guess there were at least 60 tents of street food vendors! It was great! The street was packed with people and students all sampling some goodies. I even found a different kind of Ramune, which is a carbonated sort of coconut? water, that looks like water, but when you open it, you push a tab in on the cap and it pushes a ball into the glass bottle, which releases carbonation into the drink. It’s yummy and weird.

Lanterns lit up on one of the floats during the night parade:
Takayama Fall Festival, Lanterns
Candied apples (also available: candied pineapple, small apples, & strawberries):Candied apples, street food, Japan, takayama fall festival

Grilled fish, tentacles, and squid:

Street Food, takayama fall festival
Cooking Okonomiyaki for the crowds of festival goers:
Japan, street food, takayama fall festival

The rest of the pictures are from the 2nd day of the festival, that goes from 9am until 4pm. I don’t think there’s technically a parade on the 2nd day, but all the floats are set up on some of the old streets and there are musical performances and the food vendors are still available. I pedaled my bicycle over to the old part of town around 2:30 in the afternoon to catch a few sights before it was all over & before I had to go to work.

The weather was perfect, not too cold, not too warm, and the clouds were white & fluffy contrasting with the nice blue sky and it was probably one of the last nice days that I could ride my bike around before it starts to really get cold. I was able to watch a few of these really tall/big/heavy old floats get put back into their storage houses (by accident – I was heading back to my bicycle when I happened to walk past a few!)
Here is one of the 10 floats being maneuvered down the streets toward it’s storage house:
Se-no! pulling the float back to it's home

Some of the parade/float workers waiting to get their float moving – they have to jack it up and put it on a different extra wheel so they don’t damage the old huge wooden wheels:
Japanese locals waiting to move the festival floats
One of the floats immediately after they got it back into the storage house – it is a very tight fit!:
These giant floats come out once a year and parade through the streets of Takayama
This guy had half turned around when he saw me crouching down to take some pictures, so he turned back around so I could get a shot of him. He’s wearing one of the traditional outfits – each float crew had a different pattern & hat & even shoes:This guy happily posed for a photo!