Summer is here in Japan! The hot and humid weather annoys us, but we feel chipper somewhat. And what makes us happier is...a summer festival (夏祭り, natsu-matsuri)! Especially summer festival foods (yatai foods)!!!
Fireworks are satisfying to the eyes but not to the stomach. When you go to a summer festival in Japan, I’m sure you can’t help yourself from buying bunch of foods at yatai (food stalls). Wherever you go, you can’t escape from mouth-watering smells that attract you. That’s alright! Give into your cravings! Summer will never be the same again ;)
So what food can you find at yatai (屋台)? Let’s dive into the feast of a summer festival!
Probably the most popular yatai food! Yakisoba shops make a strong and savory smell, grilling noodles, cabbage, pork and carrots together on hot plates. Freshly grilled yakisoba tastes wonderful! Shops often have mayonnaise for lots of mayonnaise lovers in Japan. Are you also a mayo-la (マヨラー, mayonnaise lover)?
Add red pickled ginger (紅ショウガ) if you like.
Osakan beloved food, takoyaki, is a popular yatai food all over Japan. Remarkable thing is the cooks’ deft performances! They roll the balls of takoyaki quickly in special molds, pick and put them onto plates without breaking them. Actually this is quite natural because most Osakan people are experienced in making takoyaki. Almost every house has their own takoyaki maker.
Look at these beautiful round takoyaki balls.
Anyone agree that grilled chickens are tastier when they’re on skewers? Not only that, the skewers make it easier for you to eat the chickens in crowds. Shops usually offer two choices of taste; salt or sauce. Which would you like to try?
Feels like we can smell it through the picture, right?
Yes, you read it right. It’s not a commonly popular choice, but there are quite a few people who can’t go home before eating chilled cucumber at festivals. Slightly salty, fresh cucumbers cooled with ice cubes are simple but nice to cool yourself in the hot evenings.
They taste like tsuke-mono (漬物).
Everything looks delicious, right? But do not pig out too much! You should leave room for dessert in your stomach :)
The most typical yatai dessert! Shaved ice with syrup of different flavors like strawberry, lemon, green tea, grape, melon and so on. You can make it even sweeter by adding condensed milk. In recent years, soft and fluffy one that melt instantly in your mouth is gaining popularity.
Matcha kakigori. Do you want to try it?
Recommended for anime lovers! Wata-ame (cotton candy) at summer festivals is often wrapped with a cute/cool plastic bag of anime characters. And it’s usually incredibly large! If you bite into it directly, you’ll end up with sticky lower face. That’s why mothers love to bring wet tissue to a summer festival. (Wet tissue is a must-have if you go to summer festival!)
My Melody, Anpanman, Hello Kitty and more!
A lovely looking apple coated with hardened syrup. Though this is not particular to Japan, summer festivals are usually the only chances to enjoy this dessert here in Japan. Do you know how to identify the fresh and delicious one? If the candy has bubbles on the surface, and if the syrup is so thin that you can see the peel of the apple through it, that’s it! And if you are patient enough to bring it home, put it into the fridge and wait until next day. It’s the best way to have it.
These ones look fresh and delicious.
A classic fish-shaped Japanese dessert filled with red bean paste. Doesn’t have a taste of fish. It’s a bit like a waffle, served hot. Depending on shops, the baked dough has different textures from crisp to chewy (like mochi!). Would you eat it from the head or tail? According to a poll, 65.8% eat from the head. (I prefer eating from the tail, though.)
Tai=red snapper. It's a lucky food because it reminds us of "omede-tai" which means "auspicious".
How was it? Do you want to visit a Japanese summer festival (to eat)? It’s a great way to enjoy various tastes of Japan all at once :)
Enjoy your summer (or winter)!