This post is a little late, as the event in question took place on the 31st of August. Nonetheless, it definitely deserves a place on my blog.
First, a bit of background information. In my city, there is a Polish-Japanese friendship foundation called “Nami”, which means wave. Apart from organising many lovely events (that I can’t currently afford, but one day!), they also hold a matsuri-like Japanese festival at the end of the summer on one of the picturesque islands in the heart of the city.
It’s very rich in real Japanese culture, matching my interests and knowledge. I first attended last year, and decided to attend the future festivals also. This year’s event was special, because it is the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Poland and Japan. There were special guests like the consul of Japan in Poland and members of Japanese companies. I hope that the cooperation of our two countries continues for many years to come.
I arrived at around 4pm, an hour after the start of the festival. I had to carry my ensemble with me, and managed to get dressed in my yukata in a shopping centre toilet. It was 31°C, and I had to make it to the tram stop, and then those three stops in a rather crowded tram without AC. I was listening to angry Chinese rap loud enough to not hear any comments of doubtful intelligence. Then I had to walk a bit to the event. It was hot and sunny, and I wasn’t bothered to take out my parasol. It was also a bit windy, so the hems of my yukata got a bit unruly.
Candid photo of struggling with my kinchaku.
Nonetheless, it was worth it once I arrived. The event was split into areas. Of course there was a food area, where I didn’t get anything- I don’t like eating in places and situations like this, as it’s uncomfortable and messy. Though I definitely was tempted by the shaved ice, different noodles, onigiri and so forth. There were also matcha lattes, which I really wanted towards the end of the event, as I was extremely thirsty- but I had no money left. There were some tea stalls as well as ones with Japanese sweets- but I didn’t have much money and had to prioritise. I could buy those things in my city all year, so I decided not to buy anything, as much as I wanted to!
Within the food area was also a tea ceremony tent, where you could get a bowl of fresh matcha and a traditional sweet for a small price. I tried it last year and enjoyed the experience, it’s also good for people who have never tried matcha or traditional tea ceremony before.
Near the food area was the main stage where a lot was going on. There was a tea ceremony performance that I missed, but luckily I attended the exact same one last year. There were also lovely music performances of traditional instruments-
• Shamisen- a three-stringed guitar-like instrument resembling the banjo.
- Koto- a bit like a harp, but horizontal.
- Taiko- very large drums.
My favourite performance was certainly that of Chihoco Yanagi, a performer of traditional Japanese dance. I am also learning this art form, albeit from videos. I especially liked the “Gion Kouta” dance.
Her dancing was incredibly expressive. I also managed to chat with her after the performance- it was really pleasant! Chihoco Yanagi-san was very friendly, I managed to practise my Japanese too- although it was a bit embarrassing when I was talking rather fluently and suddenly forgot something as basic as numbers…
A completely candid photo of our conversation. I’m pleasantly surprised by how natural this is! I rarely see myself doing things without posing anything. We talked about different things- but mostly about Japanese culture and kimono. I also showed my maiko henshin, it was a big honour to me that Chihoco Yanagi-san complimented it.
Another performance on the main stage that caught my attention was the yosakoi dance. Very lively and different from what I’m used to, but very interesting nonetheless!
Now, let’s move on to the other areas of the event. There was one dedicated to Japanese traditions- needless to say my favourite. I spent quite a bit of time at the Inugami Kimono stall- please visit her Facebook page! She has many lovely kimono and not only. I enjoyed seeing and feeling some of them in person, and admiring the motifs on them. I was captivated by the origami crane earrings- they were so tiny! I really admire the skill that went into those. I also had a lovely time chatting with the owner- we talked about many things, Japan-related and not only 😛
Beautiful maneki-neko charm. For now I decided to separate the red string from the charm part and use it in a necklace. It has a bell inside, which is a cute addition- though it can get annoying if I have to move around too much. I can keep my love of traditional Japanese close to me by wearing this adorable cat on my neck.
Although I’m rather proud of my maiko hair ornament set that I made myself, I don’t have many that I can use in normal kimono ensembles. Although in today’s times almost anything goes, I also wanted something traditional. I was completely lacking in hairpins of this sort. This ornament is versatile, because the flowers aren’t a specific motif so I can wear it all year. The purple colour goes with pretty much anything also. I can also wear this in regular everyday outfits- it’s very easy to just slide this in the back of my bun and take my love of kimono with me.
There was also a more Harajuku stall. Although I do wear some Harajuku fashions, the things there were not really my type of Japanese fashion. Generally I don’t really like that type of shop.
Further along were more stalls related to traditional culture. There was apparently one with traditional instruments, where there was the opportunity to try playing them, but they were on the stage or preparing a lot of the time so I must have missed it. Well, perhaps next year- I’d love to try the shamisen or koto one day.
Another lovely stall featured calligraphy. Asian or Western, watching ink flowing off the brush and instantly creating beautifully refined works of art. For a very small price you could get your name, a chosen kanji or short philosophical saying.
The neighbouring stall was quite similar- it focused on etagami. Etagami is the elegant art of watercolour-like paintings with accompanying text. I will certainly write more about it in the future. It can be used to decorate post cards or small paper charms, for instance. They can be hung up in rooms for an interesting touch. The stall offered uchiwa fans (wide, round unfoldable fans of Chinese origin) that were decorated on the spot with gorgeous motifs. I saw cherry blossoms and goldfish, but I think there were a few others also. I really wanted to get one of those, but by the time I was almost at the end of the queue, the ladies were understandably exhausted and started packing up. So, I bought a plain fan and took matters into my own hands.
I was inspired by the goldfish design, so I took a goldfish yukata from the internet as a reference and added my own style. I made a palette with watercolour pencils on a sheet of paper and applied the colours with cotton tips gently dipped in water. I would’ve used brushes, but I didn’t have any on hand. Either way, I think it turned out well! Now I have another uchiwa fan to go with my yukata and to use in summertime traditional dances.
富美ひな, read Fumihina, means “abundantly beautiful doll”. I constructed it in the same way as geisha names are created. I made it initially so I’d have an original username/nickname to go by and use for various sites, and since I used it for my private Instagram it just stayed with me and I’ve gotten attached.
Before I move on to the other areas, I’d like to cover the bonsai stall. Bonsai are also something I’ll write about in the future. Those carefully shaped trees show how Japanese culture values harmony with nature while also modifying it to fit a set of guidelines- to the point of it being borderline artificial. The geometric accuracy of the small plants is aesthetically pleasing and is proof of artistic skill and sensitivity.
The next area focused on martial arts. It’s not really my thing, so I haven’t got much to say. However, it still is something that I admire and appreciate. Nearby was the games area, where one could earn the festival currency- Nami Yen. It could be spent on things like the calligraphy stall or the yukata rental. I tried all of them- first was the kendama, a rather specific toy with a ball and string attached to it. You have to catch the ball on one of the four levels. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that one I got the hang of it, I rather easily completed three of the levels! The final one is for another day…Another game was transferring beads with chopsticks. Since I have quite some experience with eating using them, it was quite pleasant and relaxing. Totally something I’d do on a study break to unwind. Really, that’s not a bad idea.
There was also an origami area. I’ve only ever folded cranes before, so this was interesting. I tried folding a cat, but got lost early on and settled for an easier butterfly. Well, it was fun. I think that every now and then I could do some simple origami to relax.
Another games area was dedicated to board and card games. I enjoyed playing one of my favourites- hanafuda. It inspired me to create my own set so I could play whenever I wanted- that and more details about the game itself will be its own post, this one is long enough as is!
The final part I would like to cover is the Bon odori led by Chihoco Yanagi. I actually never tried this type of dance, but it was a lot of fun and I’ll be doing it again in the future! Sadly I have no photos, but here’s one of Chihoco-san and I.
Well, the event was a lot of fun and I enjoyed being immersed in the authentic Japanese culture that came with it- such an occasion only comes once a year. I am truly grateful to the organisers and guests who made it so special and I look forward to visiting next year! It really was a lovely end of the summer.