Aizen Matsuri (Summer Festival in Anzen, Osaka)

Summer is a time of celebration in Japan. Many towns have summer festivals to celebrate the season. These festivals include food stalls, games, parades, and usually feature a temple.

The Aizen festival is said to have originated when women in yukata summer kimono from the entertainment quarter visited the Aizen temple. Aizen Myo-o, the primary god of the temple, is known as a god of charms, good luck, love and happy marriages. It is also called Yukata Festival, because of people begin wearing yukatas at this time of the year.

So my language exchange partner, Mayumi, and I decided to go check out this Yukata Festival. Due to morning rain, many people wore casual clothes, but there were still plenty of people in yukatas (cotton version of a kimono).

Girls in yukatas sing for the crowd, and later they give out bracelets to attendees wearing yukatas.

Walking up from the subway exit, we could smell the delicious food stands that crowded the side of the road. All around the temple people had erected stalls filled with food, souvenirs, and games. Food included local favorites such as okanomiyaki (cabbage pancake), takoyaki (fried octopus balls), taiyaki (sponge cake in the same of a fish), shaved ice, cucumbers, and various fruits on a stick. I decided to enjoy a delicious pineapple wedge on a stick, as well as some taiyaki filled with custard! Yummy!! We also saw a stall selling hard candy shaped to various elaborate kanji.

 

The game stalls featured various objects and animals that you had to try and scoop up. For example, you are given a paper scooper to scoop goldfish, crabs, or even turtles into a small bowl. Once the scoop breaks, the game is over. The more animals scooped, the better your luck. I managed to scoop 5 cute turtles into my bowl, which apparently is lucky. They also had a stall where you “fished” for baby chicks with a piece of food on a fishing line. The objects included bouncy balls and water balloons. Mayumi loves the water balloon game (called “Yo-Yo), and she showed me how to play it. The contestant is given a metal hook with a piece of paper string attached. Taking the metal hook, you try to hook as many water-filled balloons as possible (the balloons have a rubber band attached to them). However, the balloons are in water, so the paper rope gets wet and will tear after lifting so many balloons. I only managed 2 balloons with Mayumi’s help, but the owner let us keep the balloons.

Afterwards, we went to watch the talent show behind the temple. The show featured arm wrestling girls, singing, calisthenics, and even a girl talking about the wonders of onions for 5 minutes (very weird). Fun entertainments overall, and a nice end to the evening.

The festival switched into night time mode as lanterns and stall lights were illuminated. This created a beautiful ambiance, but my then Mayumi and I were worn out. So we said goodbye to the festival and headed back home.

Highlights:

  • Scoop a Turtle
  • Pineapple on a stick
  • Nighttime lantern decorations
  • Icecream Taiyaki
  • Kanji Candy

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