P. Anne Winter writes:
In Toronto we are fortunate to have at least two very different celebrations of these combined festivals. One is sponsored by the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, the other by the City of Toronto. I will write more on our city’s festival later as it’s not until the end of this month.
Natsu Matsuri and Obon are actually two events blended into one day and they are free.
At 3pm during Natsu Matsuri, you can munch heartily on summer treats such as octopus balls. A favourite of mine are the summer-light white somen noodles, served cold.
It is fun to check out the stalls for traditional Japanese gift items such as artifacts made out of hand-made Japanese paper or washi. To celebrate the JCCC’s 50th anniversary and for your prosperity, you can leave your thumb print on a large painting of a cherry tree. Don’t miss the steady flow of performances on the outdoor stage. One never knows what may be shown next.
Last but not least you can have fun watching the children in the special games area where they can retrieve fish with magnetic hooks, read books, and smash watermelons. Parents may want to bring a towel or two!
This year, games from the Tanabata festival will be part of Natsu Matsuri for the first time. One activity will be a huge paper tree where you can place your secret wishes. You can join with me in finding out more about the Tanabata segment. I am very excited to finally learn about it.
At 7pm, be prepared for a very different kind of excitement with the Obon. Outside, over one hundred dancers in yukatas or cotton kimonos slowly parade onto the dancing area, the parking lot now cleared. For the next few moments, believers will offer special prayers to the gods. They are welcoming their ancestors who are returning for this Buddhist celebration. Then there is a parade of formal and informally yukata-clad dancers. You will hear powerful drumming and be encouraged to participate in the dancing. You can be young, old, experienced, or a beginner. Just follow the slow movements of the people around you.
Don’t worry if it rains. The Centre has a huge hall where the performances and dancing could continue as usual. I have always found the weather very hot and perfect for outdoor dancing. Fortunately you can repeat this memorable experience every year.
This combined festival will be at the JCCC on July 13. For details, see www.TorontoMulticulturalCalendar.com.
Please let us know about what others can expect at festivals in your ancestral culture. Write us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.