Summer is winding down again. It's finally getting cool — about 28-30° now — and the weather is unsteady and rainy. Typhoon season is upon us.
While I'm no fan of the hot, humid summer here in general, I do enjoy the summer festivals. We try to catch the festival at our local shrine every year, with crowds of people, stalls selling snacks and fast food, and a really festive atmosphere. Makes the climate not just bearable but really enjoyable for a while.
This is not one of the big, famous festivals you may have head of in Kyoto or elsewhere, but just a small neighbourhood thing. Japan is filled with these events all summer long. The street in from of the shrine is filled with stalls like this, while the shrine itself has ceremonies, stages with performances and other events. Lots of fun.
Girl in summer kimono is playing a ball pick-up game at one of the stalls.
Playing an old-style ball-game at another stall.
There's games fit for grown-ups as well. One game (I didn't get a good picture) we played was basically a large water jar with a small cup at the bottom, with the opening upwards. Drop a coin from the surface, and if it gets into the cup at the bottom, you win. In this case you got two sticks of candied sugar (your choice of flavour) if you won; and one stick even if you didn't. We didn't win, but still tasty to share one stick!
Speaking of sticks, there's no limit to what kind of food you can serve on a stick. Here's pineapple and banana, both dipped in chocolate. I had grilled beef-tongue and iced cucumber as well, both served on a stick. You can get corn, fried chicken, hot dogs, squid, sweet beans, or fish cake on a stick too, if you want. And you do — it's all really good.
I had a beer with my food. It did not come on a stick, though I'm sure Top People are working hard on solving that problem even as we speak.
The shrine itself is on a small hill right among the houses. Here two boys are studying the street below.
These summer festivals do have a religious origin, though most people no longer pay much heed to that. You pay your respects, then go back to mingle and having fun. This is the fushimi inari altar off the side from the main shrine building.
The grounds are lit up in the evening with paper lanterns. They bear the name of local businesses that sponsor the festival. This lantern is from Yamako Paper Manufacturing, a local maker of tissue paper.
The area has plenty of older city blocks, with a group of homes in the middle accessible only through an alleyway you enter right through one of the street-facing buildings. These are the name plates hanging above one such alleyway entrance.