To support some friends and enjoy some cultural exchange, I joined my fellow ALTs in various nearby festivals.
In Hakodate, I learned how to do the squid dance. This was my favourite of all the festival dances that I learned. After watching most of the teams go by, we decided to join the dance at the end. I was amazed at how crowded it became near the end of the squid dance! Because there were so many people, I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to find our friends. We weaved through the crowds, and sure enough, we spotted them, a head taller than anyone around them.
The Mori town ALTs invited me to join their team, a group of vibrant and energetic ladies, for their town festival. We wasshoi’d from beginning to end. The portable shrine was surprisingly heavy! We had a team of strong men to take over if any of us got tired, but we were all too excited to let anyone take our places. The highlight for me was a race between all of the teams at the end. Each team had four members run as fast as they could while carrying a portable shrine. Our team was fun to watch! The winners were a team of young men who ran like the wind.
The Assabu ALT invited some friends to join the Esashi Ubagami festival so that we could meet some of the new ALTs while experiencing a festival for the oldest shrine in Hokkaido. We visited a friend of a friend’s house to eat a delicious spread of sashimi. They were so kind and welcoming! Because of this, it was my best experience of the summer festivals. There was a strong wind and heavy rain while the floats were being pulled through town, but that didn’t stop anyone from giving their all. The floats were draped in plastic raincoats, and the festival went on as planned.
Finally, I attended the Fujishiro Mikoshi festival, a small festival in Nanae. This festival was a little different from the other traditional festivals that I attended. There were the usual food stalls with yakitori, yakisoba, and other delicious fried food, but there was also a stage with singers and dancers performing all evening. It was very dynamic and exciting. At the end, there was a bingo game. I got lucky and won a large box of delicious leeks.