Recently I have been covering summer festivals, both here in California and in Japan! But what I haven’t covered is the scrumptious summer festival fare that draws crowds out as much as the dancing, fireworks and the events themselves do! Imagine yourself wrapped in your summer yukata wondering through the countless street stalls taking in the sweet and savory aromas wafting through the air. What would appeal most to your taste buds? Would it be the fried foods, the shaved ice or would you prefer something on a stick?
The natsu matsuri (summer festival) food offerings are extensive and there is something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. Noodles are a big part of the Japanese diet and yakisoba (tepan tossed noodles with pork and cabbage) are very popular during the summer festivals. So is the okonomiyaki (fried batter with cabbage, pork and eggs topped off with sauce and mayonnaise) as well as the takoyaki (ball shaped fried batter with octopus). Getting the hang of it? “Yaki” means fried and the Japanese love their fried foods.
People are walking around, socializing and enjoying the matsuri atmosphere. Food that comes on a stick is easy to eat and there are so many choices. Everything from yakitori (grilled pieces of chicken) to corn, to mochi and even chocolate covered bananas. You can have it all on a stick.
The summer heat and humidity in Japan can sometimes be unbearable. Hence, the popularity of shaved ice. Topped off with flavored syrup or even green tea and sweet red beans (anko) it is a great way to cool off in the outdoors. Another great way to cool off is with an ice cold beer or Chu Hi, a canned alcoholic beverage whose name is derived from shochu highball. Traditional Chu Hi is made with shochu and carbonated water flavored with lemon, though some modern commercial variants use vodka in place of shochu. The flavors available have recently increased to include lime, grapefruit, apple, orange, pineapple, grape, grape, kiwi, ume (plum), yuzu (Japanese citrus), lychee (berry), peach, strawberry cream, and cream soda. Of course, if your prefer something non-alcoholic, there is always ice cold Ramune!
So if you have not had time to enjoy natsu matsuri, there is still time. Bring your friends along and share the great natsu matsuri fare, the more the merrier!