What can make any man or woman spend a Sunday with huge crowds, long lines, people pushing, more lines, and more pushing. Well that’s simple, food!
Furusato Matsuri or ‘Hometown Festival’ is comparable to ‘Taste of’ events in the U.S. Only this festival hosts vendors from all over Japan, not just one city. Thus the name, hometown.
Like any major city, many residents grew up outside of the city and crave favorite foods from home. I know in the States, people in NYC would always mention foods they miss. Like the gondola from Avanti’s, a hot dog from Underdogg, or fried chicken skins from Husk. Just imagine if there was a food festival, in let’s say Yankee Stadium where all these favorites came once a year. Wouldn’t you want to go?
First, we purchased tickets and then joined the snaking line before entering. Tokyo Dome hosts this festival yearly but is primarily the home to the Giants, a baseball team. Like any professional sports arena it is very large! Once we entered the dome, Greenburg, a British expat spending the year in Tokyo, who works for the same company, joined Mr. Cakes and me. We took a peek down to the floor and were immediately clued in as to what we were about to partake in. Hailed as the largest food festival in the country Furusato Matsuri did not disappoint on options (or crowds)!
The festival offers food vendors as well as those selling non-food items, like leather goods, ceramics, furniture and knives. Each vendor has a flag, above you can see just how many stands there were to visit. Our plan of attack was to start on the far side and weave our way down every aisle. Turned out that was a bit ambitious considering the crowds!
The first food vendor we tried was this meat station. We had a curly sausage, a sausage on some sort of bone, and the lamb steak. All were tasty, but we decided we enjoyed the curly one the best. It had more of a seasoned taste and the casing was grilled longer.
Two steps to the right, and there we found the beer! Mr. Cakes and Greenburg tried a few different ones. The coffee beer was deemed most interesting, but of course wheat beer was the favorite. After standing around and letting the first course settle we were on our way.
It was unbelievable how many food booths there were! Free samples were available at many booths. It was so hard to not stop and try one of everything!
We sampled these cookies and enjoyed them! They tasted like an ice cream cone and Mr. Cakes thought they were so good he decided to pick some up for his team at work. I hope they enjoyed the treat!
There were many stands that sold sushi and fish products. I didn’t manage to taste any myself, but aren’t these boxes so beautiful.
Next up, this little booth caught our eye. Who could pass a tray full of pan seared scallops! Fortunately the line was not too long, but any wait would have been worth it. The scallops were excellent. Served in a curry broth with a little sautéed veg, very flavorful and cooked perfectly.
Afterwards it was on to the main event, crab legs! At first we tried the legs and body that were in the shell. Then we spotted a stand that sold legs from spiny crabs.
The amount of work one puts into eating a crab leg can sometimes go unrewarded. However, these had a tasty charred flavor and enough meat inside each leg to be well worth ordering 2 plates.
Furosato Matsuri is not just about food. Over the course of the 9 days that it is open there are many performances by different groups. Music, dancing, traditional parade style shows as well. While we were there we saw a troupe put on a show with these lanterns.
These lanterns were lit and then carried around. The dome lowered the lights and the glow of the lanterns was very striking. I’ve not seen anything like that before, so it was very special moment that I will never forget.
Quick snap of the lit lanterns. (a little blurs) I had a huge crowd in front of me, so it was hard to see. But the height of the lanterns on the poles was amazing!
Later in the day there was another performance with a large float, drums and a group of dancer/ marchers. Again the dome lowered the lights and the float lit up. Everyone is the audience was very cheerful and happy. There was a loud chant that worked with the beating drums and the performers had lots of energy!
Not to worry, this festival had plenty of cute characters, see the Garlic King. There was also this cat hat that, I think, it is the mascot for one of the sponsors. And then there was this lively blue guy. He was rolling all around and really entertaining the crowd.
It was a long day but totally worth it! Everyone left content from the festive experience. Knowing that I will never go back actually makes me even more fond of the day, and I mean that in a good way!