The weather’s getting colder, and the leaves are changing with the season. I still manage to get away with wearing shorts on some days, but that’s not what most of the other people around me wear. I find that my temperature preference is in general a bit lower than that of most Japanese.
Anyway, the past couple weekends there have been a few festivals that I took part in. One of them, called Sophia-sai (or So-sai), was put on by my own university. The streets of my university campus became a fair filled with lots of different stands selling all kinds of treats sweet and salty and everything in between. Other clubs use a classroom in one of the buildings and convert it into a cafe, or in one case, a haunted house. All the booths were run by student clubs, so the sheer number of booths should give you a pretty good idea of how much student clubs and circles are a part of student life here.
Perhaps my favorite part was my visit to the traditional Japanese music club’s cafe. Ironically, I forgot to take pictures then, so I don’t have anything to show, but basically they served us Japanese tea and sweets and performed on the Koto, a Japanese harp-like instrument, the Shakuhachi, a Japanese flute, and the Shamisen, a sort of Japanese guitar or banjo.
I actually really enjoy the sound of the Japanese instruments, and I wish that I ran into it more in modern Japanese (pop) music, but so far I haven’t really found anything like that, with the one exception being what seems to be this indie rock band called Crow Class, which uses Japanese instruments almost exclusively, even including the taiko Japanese drum. Though it’s not necessarily what I experienced at my festival, you can check them out on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp9WQ96pfZc&feature=relmfu
One of the other festivals I went to was in Shinjuku at the Hanzono Shrine. It was somewhat similar to the school festival in that there were all these different shops and stands lining the walkways. In addition to food and snacks, however, there were many different stands selling good luck charms, things to ward off evil and things of that sort. Since it was at a shrine, some people would also pray there. The Japanese are actually often perceived as secular in lifestyle, but if there is a time when the Japanese are religious, it is when making visits to these shrines and temples. I suppose the festivals provide a way for everyone to do it together as a community, and it into a party while they’re at it : P