As the rain comes to a halt and the last of my assessments is submitted, it is clear that summer has arrived in Tokyo. After receiving my official certificate of completion for the School of International Liberal Studies’ semester program in the grand Okuma Auditorium, a few good friends and I set off to celebrate the end of exams.
I put on my yukata, the traditional summer Japanese dress, and we set off towards Kagurazaka, a Tokyo neighbourhood known for its main street lined with cafes, restaurants and small boutiques. When we arrived, the temperature was still in the mid-thirties, so we headed to the local conbini (convenience store) to buy an ice cream before the finding a spare spot on the sidewalk to watch the parade that was about to start.
The Annual Kagurazaka Matsuri Festival, otherwise known as the Japanese Lantern Plant Market, and the Awa-Odori Dance Festival feature pop-up food and drink stalls, and a parade of singers and dancers running along the main street of Kagurazaka. People dressed in colourful yukatas sat eagerly waiting for the parade to start. Then suddenly, from one end of the street we could hear the beat of the music and the cheers of the onlookers as the parade began. Dressed in elaborate costumes, about 20 groups paraded down the main street for around half an hour. Being so close to the performers was surreal. As the festival died down we jumped back on the subway and headed to another part of Tokyo to watch the fireworks.
Every weekend in summer you are bound to stumble across fireworks in Tokyo. The Sumidagawa fireworks (隅田川花火高い) are held near Asakusa every year on the last Saturday of July. Arriving at Sumida River, we found it incredibly difficult to find a spot to view the fireworks, only finding out later that there were about one million people there. Nonetheless we found a great vantage point and settled in for the evening. It is a Japanese tradition that each group of fireworks outdoes the last, creating a competition between the different pyrotechnic groups. The fireworks themselves were spectacular; some even formed different shapes, such as the anime character Pikachu, which the crowd loved.