Monday, September 27, 2010

Summer in Sendai: Festivals!

Summer was unusually hot in Sendai this year. I think it got up to 36/37 C, which is actually only about 98 in Fahrenheit, but when combined with the humidity here... Let's just say I didn't even know it was possible for me to sweat that much. My last post came to you from rainy season, which I heard a lot about before coming, but it turned out to be what most Portlanders would consider a pretty normal June.

So what did I do this summer? Well mostly I worked, but in addition to that I went to a lot of festivals, including the very cool Samurai horse-riding festival in Fukushima prefecture (just south of my prefecture, Miyagi). 

One of the riders at the Soma Nomaoi Festival

As I mentioned before, there is a very large foreigner community in Sendai, and in particular there are a lot of Swedes. The picture below is from a Swedish Midsommar Festival I went to, where we built a maypole, danced around it to strange Swedish songs about rabbits and crows, and I discovered that pickled herring is actually really good. 

Swedish Midsommar Festival
I also went to Sendai's famous Tanabata Festival, which is the largest in Japan. Tanabata has it's origins in a story about two lovers who are separated by their parents as punishment for their laziness, and turned into stars on opposite sides of the Milky Way. They only get to meet once a year during Tanabata. Not exactly a Romeo and Juliet style tragedy, but the festival is very nice.

During Tanabata, all of the main shopping avenues in Sendai are decorated with large origami decorations in bright colors, mostly advertising various companies and local sports teams. Despite the shameless advertising, it's really beautiful. Also, a Tanabata tradition is to write a wish on a piece of paper and tie it to a bamboo tree. You could find these trees everywhere- even the kindergarteners I teach made them.

Hanging wishes on a bamboo tree

Sendai Tanabata decorations

My friend Megumi (Hio) visited me during the first week of my summer vacation. We went to the Tanabata Festival in Sendai, where we saw fireworks, parades, traditional dancing and ate lots of good food (including the local specialty, cow tongue). We also visited some of the local tourist spots, like Yamadera and Matsushima. 

Me and Hio downtown during Tanabata

One of the great things about living in Sendai is that there is almost always some festival or event going on in the area. It definitely keeps things interesting! Next post: week 2 of my summer vacation- Hiroshima and Osaka!

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