So this weekend is Natsu Matsuri and many people all over Singapore – Japanese and many non-Japanese – are aroused to the news about the event. What exactly is Natsu Matsuri? Why are people so crazed up about it? We are here to report it.
It is summer and it is cultural for people in Japan to celebrate a festival during Summer, commonly known as Natsu Matsuri （夏祭り）or Summer Festival. Actually, there are many festivals celebrated during Summer, in Japan, across the season and across prefectures. The one that is most commonly known to the anime lovers, and those who love Japan, is the one that falls on the week of Obon (お盆).
Obon is actually a Buddhist festival to commemorate ancestors. Parallel to the Singapore Chinese’ Hungry Ghost Festival, it is believed that the spirits of a person’s or a family’s ancestors would return during the week of Obon to visit this world. So just like in Singapore, where Chinese folks believe in such events, there will food offered to the spirits at houses and temples.
People who live outside of Japan, especially those of us who can’t stop speeding on anime, would be familiar seeing the Bon Odori （盆踊り) in some episodes where the characters are enjoying a festival. People in Singapore will be familiar with a stage performance, called getai, during Hungry Ghost Festival. Similarly, Japanese have the practice of kind of stage performance called Bon Odori (meaning Obon Dance), to welcome the spirits of the netherworld. The dance includes the use of taiko (big drums) and other percussion instruments. There is singing and dancing altogether. The songs and style of dance actually varies across parts of Japan. In Singapore, the Obon Dance includes local traditional songs like Chan Mali Chan and a popular song from one of Ghibli’s shows – Ponyo.
Summer Festival is fun as it is accompanied by other exciting activities and things. During the festival they sell all kinds food and merchandise. They sell delicious street food and there are plenty of games that one can find at a festival. The most popular ones are Kingyo Sukui (Catching goldfish with a paper scoop) and Yoyo-tsuri (Hooking up water balloons using a hook that is connected to a paper string). Some festivals have paper craft for kids and the best part of the festival is to dress up in a yukata or a jinbei (worn by men).
It’s all fun and games and really brings family and friends together. In Singapore, we have Summer Festival at The Singapore Japanese School at Changi, every year. It is S$4 per ticket for non-JAS members and S$2 per ticket for JAS Members. Each person can buy a maximum of 10 game coupons at S$2 each. All information are available on the website of the JAS (Japanese Association, Singapore).
There are some differences in the way Summer Festival is celebrated in Singapore too but it is still Summerful. There’s no better way to blow steam during summer…even though Singapore is sunny all year round. Oh, did I mention that there is plenty of beer and shaved ice desserts as well?