Sunday, August 14, 2011

My first Japanese Summer Festival

As I may have mentioned before, Iwakuni is a pretty small city. I was shocked at how such a small place could have such an amazing fireworks display! My friends Miho and Miki invited me along to the festival and asked if I'd like to wear a yukata (summer kimono) to the event. I was so honored to take part in the traditions here and enthusiastically accepted the invitation. 

Miki is enrolled in a program right now to become licensed to dress people in kimonos. I had no idea how involved the process is or that it is such a serious job in Japan. People wear kimonos to formal events like weddings and to traditional events like this summer festival and need someone to help them follow traditions and ensure the ties are all correct. The ideal Japanese figure is extremely straight, so the American ideal of a small waist and more pronounced bust and hips is filled out in the middle. I definitely have a larger bust and hips, so I had to fill out the middle area so my belt would stay straight!

Miki's beautiful two-year-old daughter came with us, and wore her own beautiful yukata! She's an awesome kid:

When we were ready, we had Miho's husband act as a photographer and take lovely pictures of us outside the neighborhood.

Check out this pup's yukata! She's even wearing the bow!
We decided to head down to the Kintai area for the festival and I was surprised by how many people came out of the woodwork for the big day. The parking lots were packed! We walked the the area around the bridge where the vendors were set up and decided it was time for a slushee. The vendors make the ice shavings in front of you and then drizzle syrup on top. I chose green apple because it's always my favorite flavor. It was really tart and delicious! 
The kimono dog had us giggling for a while. Love it.

I kept thinking that if Joe was at the festival, we could try every kind of food, because I can take a bite and then he'll finish everything. :) Unfortunately, he's still not back in Iwakuni, so I am limited to my own serving sizes. I saw Japanese-style crepes, chicken skewers, sausages on a stick, rice balls, and lots more that I don't know the names of. I took a few pictures, but I was too busy enjoying the experience to document it like it really deserved. :)

Below, you'll see one of the shaved ice vendors. Each different color is a different flavor of syrup and you can pump it yourself at these stands. We went to one where they do everything for you and serve it in a huge plastic cup that looks like a flower. The ice is so cold and fresh that it steams when you are eating it outside on a 90+ degree day!

A million varieties of crepes:

Miki helping Ayana with her new toy. Ayana bounced her ball around for the rest of the night. They are so beautiful in pink and white!

Here's a shot of one of the rows of vendors with the bridge in the background:

I think this next picture does a good job of capturing the gorgeous historic bridge and the intersection between traditional and modern clothing. You can even see the gorgeous bows on each girl's back! I learned that if the bow is in the front, then it is a sign that the girl is a prostitute. We also saw some girls wearing their kimonos off the shoulder, and I learned that it is highly offensive.

We wanted to get a picture of us together before dark, so our lovely photographer took this picture of us. I love it!

While at the festival, I made a dinner from tasty yakisoba made on a grill in front of me with yakitori-style gyu on a stick. I'm not trying to make my blog difficult, but repeating the Japanese helps me remember everything! Yakisoba is a noodle dish made with lots of vegetables and I think some nuts too. It has a lot of great seasoning and is very filling! Yakitori is a type of sauce for grilled meat (from what I can gather) and gyu is beef! So, I had awesome Japanese beef sliced thin on a stick and it was drizzled in a tangy/sweet sauce. 

Here is the yakisoba being cooked in front of me: 

The main attraction was an hour and a half of fireworks! While nothing could beat the Detroit fireworks, these ones came close. They had columns of fireworks bursting and even red fireworks firing into heart shapes! 


I hope everyone is having a great summer! 


  1. Heather - I SO enjoy reading your blogs!! My husband and son recently moved to Iwakuni. My husband is the new Chief of Marine and Family Programs at the base. I am eagerly looking forward to joining them! I am an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University and will need to teach my Fall class. You have made the community and base living come alive for me! THANK YOU so much for your photos and insight into your life in Japan!

  2. Hi Melinda! I'm sure we'll run into each other sometime on base. If you ever have any questions, shoot me an email at heatherrocks128(at)gmail(dot)com.