Japanese summer festival


Summer in Japan means a lot of outdoor celebrations or “matsuri”. The matsuris are usually held in temples, “jinja” and the whole place is lit up with these paper lanterns.

When we went to Japan for vacation last year, my in-laws invited my brother and his wife, who just got married in summer of 2008 to come over for a small surprise. We lent my sister in-law a kimono, got the new couple dressed and dolled up.

dress up like Japanese

~ My brother and his wife with the hairdresser/kimono dresser ~


What a memorable gift but in one condition, they have to take a photo like how Japanese newly wed couples in kimono look like. No smiles. LOL! (joking…this was just for the kicks)

No smile photo!

The above photo was taken at my in-law’s house, in their Japanese-style room with tatami flooring, near their Butsudan, a wooden cabinet with doors that enclose and protect a religious icon, typically a statue of a mandala scroll. Here they pay respect to their God or the deceased.

I don’t know much about butsudans except that the incense sticks they light in there makes me sneeze. My mother in-law has already forgiven me and have dealt with my butsudan allergy since I stepped into that house so we’re cool.

Anyway, back to the topic…we went to a matsuri that night and Pristine got to wear her Happi coat. The kanji at the back reads “Matsuri”, this is a typical matsuri or festival coat.

Pristine in hapi

See how she’s so excited to immerse in the culture. Even when we were still living in Japan, we rarely go to my in-law’s house because it’s far, too hot in the summer or too snowy and cold in the winter. I know what you’re thinking: She’s got all the excuses available!

Yes, I do and I still have lots other in case the season or event doesn’t call for any of those above excuse categories, but believe me, they are all legal and logical. I’ve got them all covered.

Pristine was three years old when we left Japan so she has little memory of the traditional celebrations there but surprise, surprise she was a natural. She even found a friend within minutes of our arrival at the festival venue.

Japanese friend

Living in Dubai since three and going to an English School, Pristine has forgotten most of her Japanese language but that didn’t stop her from interacting with the kids there. She struggled with her broken Japanese – but guess what, the other kids didn’t mind and welcomed her with open arms. Although I think everyone blamed me for her broken Japanese…”look the mom is a foreigner…”

Hubby’s hometown is very rural (I’ll post more about it soon), and people know, help each other and yes, talk about each other. LOL. My in-law’s are famous for having a “daughter in-law from outside”. Outside Japan, that is, not outside Earth, I hope!

These two ladies almost spilled their o-sake when I greeted them in Japanese language. “Oh, you know Japanese! Why didn’t you say so!” Oh, now I’m saying. Smile!

Serving o-sake

They served o-sake to everyone at the matsuri. My brother and his wife gave it a whirl – or should I say, the rice wine made them go whirl. I once had a terrible hangover from hell from rice wine so I vowed not to have them again, ever and I politely declined their offer, complete with the Japanese bow of apology. It’s a good lower back exercise.


and then most probably, the  town’s people started a buzz. “That foreign wife isn’t interested in our rice wine…” Oh well.

Meanwhile, while my brother was chatting with a few residents in that small town, (I told you, there are very, very few foreigners in that area of Japan and we are treated like a new hybrid specie), Pristine was having a blast with the children.

Laughing at their jokes…I didn’t get the joke. It might’ve required me to be a 5 year old again to understand the tickly stories they were sharing.

Pristine having fun at matsuri

But I probably would have squirmed too if tickled like this. If I am a 5 year old.

Pristine having fun at matsuri

Different story if this happened 10 years later. We would have filed for sexual harassment, acts of lasciviousness, gender discrimination, intrusion of privacy, unjust vexation charges etc…all those legal jargon judges all love to pronounce.

They were queuing for a carnival game which I don’t know the English of,  but the one involving a plastic toy gun loaded with pellets and aimed at plastic action figures and boxes of candies and bubble gums – so we’ll call it the bang-bang game.


~ the carnival person is explaining to Pristine how to fire the toy gun ~

We are gun-free (toy and real) in our house so this is the first time Pristine got hold of a toy gun so we didn’t expect her to be able to shoot the target. But she wasn’t empty handed that night! She actually “shot” three prizes out of the 5 shots she was given. Homegirl can become a SWAT member in the future.

The victorious YES! face and pose and the high-fives around her.

Victorious YES!

and then I looked around and sharpened my hearing. The town’s people are saying, “that foreign mother must have taught her girl how to handle a gun”…

A trip to rural Japan is always interesting. More to come soon!