Culture · Culture Shock · Food & Cooking · Japanese Pop Culture · Living in Japan · Pictures

Matsuri – A Japanese Tradition with Great Food

I was planning on writing a full update about the festival tonight, but a lot of things got me in a real bad mood and I do not feel all that motivated to write a bunch. I will not really go into details about the actual festival and its history in this post. However, fear not, for I shall give you part one of my festival update: FOOD! To be honest, the main reason I go to most festivals is for the food. Now, some of the food is better than others, but Japanese matsuri (祭り・festivals) certainly provide a lot of delicious things to eat and some very intriguing things to look at.

fruit covered in sweet water
fruit covered in sweet water

For some reason I cannot remember the exact name of this sweet. It is essentially a gummy sugar based liquid that covered some fruit. It is not hard, but is more of the consistency of syrup that has hardened just enough that you can hold it without it melting. It is not bad, but rather difficult to eat. My host sister, Yasumi, loves the stuff and she always gets it when we go to festivals.

chocolate covered bananas
chocolate covered bananas

These are pretty much what they look like: chocolate covered bananas. These are extremely popular at festivals and practically every child will eat two, or more of these, when they visit a festival. These are a favorite of my host brother, Ryu, and he had about 4 when we went to the festival together. They are usually covered in sprinkles or some sort of confection like that. There are sometimes small cookies stuck on the top of the bananas.

those castellas
those castellas

These adorable teddy bear shaped cakes are castella which is a popular Japanese sponge cake made of sugar, flour, eggs, and starch syrup, very common at festivals. The smell is sweet and alluring and I cannot help but buy these whenever I go to a festival. I guess you could say that these are one of my favorites. They come is all sorts of shapes. Teddy bears is very common shape, but Pikachu and Hello Kitty are also becoming increasingly popular. I bought Pikachu castellas this year, but I felt bad eating them because Pikachu’s face was too cute.

squid on a stick
squid on a stick

This is a matsuri food that I cannot eat. This is a squid on a stick. This seems to be popular with slightly older people – and by older I mean college graduates and young parents. Jun says that these are delicious, but I will just have to his word on that.

dorayaki in many flavors
dorayaki in many flavors

These are not specifically matsuri foods, but they are very common in Japanese culture. This is a snack called dorayaki and is a type ofJapanese confection which consists of two small pancake-like patties made from castella wrapped around a filling of sweet red bean paste. The ones pictured above are not just red bean paste, but there is also custard crème and green tea. Dorayaki is also Doraemon’s favorite food.

Hiroshima okonomiyaki
Hiroshima okonomiyaki

This is Hiroshima okonomiyaki and is one of my favorite non-sweet Japanese foods. is a Japanese savoury pancakecontaining a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “what you like” or “what you want”, and yakimeaning “grilled” or “cooked.” What makes Hiroshima okonomiyaki unique is that the ingredients are layered instead of mixed together. The layers are typically batter, cabbage, pork, and optional items such as squid, octopus, and cheese. Noodles (yakisoba, udon) are also used as a topping with fried egg and a generous amount of okonomiyaki sauce. It is delicious and I highly recommend it!

that's a lot of sheesh-kebabs
that's a lot of sheesh-kebabs

This is yakitori (chicken sheesh-kebabs) and is not only a common food at matsuri, but also at bars. The meat being sold in the above picture is the breast, heart, liver, and (cow’s) tongue. Needless to say, I went with the breast.

even hamburgers make an appearance
even hamburgers make an appearance

Jun said that these hamburgers are delicious, but we were too full to order one. I was more amused by the fact that hamburgers made an appearance at a Japanese festival. I will have to make sure that I get one next year.

candied fruits
candied fruits

These are apple candies (りんご飴) and are the Japanese version of a candied apple. They sometimes make them out of regular sized apples, but these tend to be made out of crab apples for a more manageable snack. They also sell the same version with mangos, strawberries, oranges, grapes, and pineapples. I like these guys, but they are really sweet and you don’t want to eat too many of them.

takoyaki or fried octopus balls
takoyaki or fried octopus balls

TAKOYAKI! This is my favorite matsuri food and I could eat these all day. These are a Japanese dumpling made of batter, diced or whole baby octopus, tempurascraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion, topped with okonomiyakisauce, green laver (aonori), mayonnaise, and katsuobushi (fish shavings). I can’t do the baby octopus, but the diced ones are tasty. The more mayonnaise the better!

takoyaki and a weiner
takoyaki and a weiner

Here is a better picture of the actual takoyaki along with a sausage.

sweet potato chips
sweet potato chips

Sweet potatoes are famous in Kawagoe, so a matsuri would not be complete without some sweet potato based foods. First up are sweet potato chips on a stick. They are slightly deep fried and they sprinkled with several different flavors. I personally always opt for the salt and pepper as I like the flavor of sweet potatoes, but Jun likes to put sea weed based powder on his.

sweet potato ice cream
sweet potato ice cream

Next up is sweet potato ice cream. I know, purple ice cream is a little freaky looking and it probably doesn’t help that it is a potato based ice cream. However, this is delicious and may be one of my favorite soft served ice creams. It is sold in Kawagoe during the year at all times, but I tend to only eat it during matsuri season.

Coming in my next entry I promise to talk more about the actual matsuri. I took some great pictures of the dashi (wooden floats) and a few other things of cultural note. For now, I have some more elementary school prep to do and then I need to head off to bed. I hope you enjoyed looking at all the different foods!

46 thoughts on “Matsuri – A Japanese Tradition with Great Food

    1. Sorry to make you homesick😦 I know how difficult it can be to be away from home. If it makes you feel any better, I hate the word “moist” too (I just checked out your blog🙂 )

  1. It all looks so good – I would love to try that sweet potato ice cream! Also think using smaller fruit for the candied apples is a great idea – In the US they are usually so big you can’t eat them. Thanks for sharing … North Coast Muse @ http://sally1029.wordpress.com

    1. Aren’t matsuri the best things ever?! This is my third year living in Japan and I still can’t get enough of matsuri. The sweet potato ice cream is soooo yummy…I got another cone after work today with some of my students :p

  2. I spent almost a year in Japan as a foreign exchange student, and I went to lots of matsuri….I miss it so much!
    I’m vegetarian so I never ate most of these things…but my favorite festival foods were the candied fruit, various sweets and chocolate bananas. Yum!!

    Gorgeous pictures, as well.

    1. matsuri are great. Even if you are a vegetarian, there is still a lot of great food to be had! If you ever get back to Japan, look me up. We can eat our hearts out together.

  3. sweet potato ice huh…hmmm I’ll give it some credit, as it’s creative but none the less, I like my sweet potatos next to my steak with veggies lol not in an ice cream cone – to each their own🙂

    check out my blog if you want (I’m also new to this)

    http://www.ilbu.wordpress.com

  4. This all looks great! I just found out I got a job as an English teacher in Japan and my first placement choice is Kawagoe, so if I’m lucky maybe I’ll end up being able to experience and enjoy some sweet potato ice cream, myself.🙂

  5. Geez, your post makes me hungry now. How I wish I can have a taste of those foods. The takoyaki sold in here is somewhat different from what you have posted. But, one thing is for sure both are delicious.

  6. Thank you for these delectable pictures. They’re so vivid, I can almost smell this street fair. I am incredibly drawn to Japanese culture and food, and I’ve been fortunate to have visited Japan, so your post was a complete visceral treat. I look forward to returning to your blog.

  7. wow! makes my forthcoming breakfast look terribly boring (greek yoghurt, fresh walnuts and banana with fresh apple-carrot-orange-kiwi-ginger and lime juice, and a damn fine coffee of my own making)
    until i get to japan, might as well go walking out there in that cold viennese weather

  8. everything i know about japanese food is sushi and rolls and also spicy (very spicy) food. thank you for such a variety of pictures which show us so different and colourful food. it seems to be very delicious. at least you want to taste it. lol!

    1. If there is a festival or not will depend on what area you are in. If you are coming at the end of December, you will be right in time for the New Years season and there will be LOTS of food.

  9. Nice pictures! I love matsuri! It’s that time of year! We’re here in Japan too and have been to three lately

  10. man, just looking at the food makes me hungry…. Anyways, i love the food like hell.

    Takoyaki isn’t really to my taste though… the bananas are SO cool😉

  11. kore wo hontou ni arigatou~! oishisou dakara ^_^
    i used to eat takoyaki here in the Philippines but they don’t look like what is pictured here. maybe there are differences sometimes~😛 really thanks~

  12. I am so very envious of your experience! How often do these festivals occur? I’m drooling from all those food you’ve mentioned!!!!! >..<…

  13. I’m trying hard to save up to visit Japan and though I’m too much of a picky eater to appreciate a lot of their food, this blog makes me want to try so many things! It looks so fun going to a Japanese festival.

  14. A lot of things to put on the diabetic nightmare list. Everything does look yummy. I would have gone for the cow’s tongue–fine dining.

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