I <3 Japan: Uni Matsuri

posted in: JETAADC | 1

David spent his time on JET as an ALT in Shintotsukawa, Hokkaido from 2008-2013 before returning to his native Maryland.  He currently works for the Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C.

I hope everyone is having a great summer!

A year has passed since my time on JET came to a close and I often reminisce about the fun experiences I had.  Summer in Japan was especially nice as there were so many festivals going on.  One festival that I particularly remember was a sea urchin festival in Hokkaido.

This uni-matsuri (“sea urchin festival”,うに祭り) took place on Teuri (天売島), a small island that is part of the mainland town, Haboro (羽幌町), Hokkaido.  A short ferry ride from town brings you to the docks and the  “downtown” area with a handful of shops a couple of restaurants.

Teuri Dock

My friends and I decided to stay overnight and camp on the island.  We found a nice spot next to a little “cove”. 

We camped in front of this “cove”. In the distance is Yagishiri Island.

The main event space had tents selling fresh seafood and giant containers filled with dozens of live uni for one hundred yen each.  Special uni-opening tools were available to get at the edible portions.  I admit I was a bit wary at first about handling these deadly-looking koosh balls.

Uni Matsuri Event

Uni for sale

There were large grills set up so you could grill your food if you so wished.  I opted to try the uni fresh and was amazed at how delicious it was.  Up until then, I had never been impressed with the flavor of uni, but this experience completely changed my attitude.

Grilling seafood

It tasted much better than it looked.
It tasted much better than it looked.

After gorging ourselves on uni, we rented bikes and burned off the calories with a ride around the island. 

Teuri scenery

Teuri scenery 2

Teuri is home to a large population of auks, a kind of bird.  These were their nests.
Teuri is home to a large population of auks, a kind of bird. The holes in the cliff are their nesting sites.

We completed the day back at the dock with beers in our hands and watched a spectacular fireworks display.

Fireworks on Teuri


Despite its remoteness and small scale, this festival was a memorable experience and one of many summer festivities I got to enjoy while on JET.  Being back in D.C. in summer I can’t help but feel nostalgic for Japanese summer festivals!

Were there any great festivals you discovered while in Japan?  If so, let us know in the comments below!

  1. Paul (@BlueKutsu)

    Cool post, Dave! I could never get into uni, personally. My dad loved it, but I tried it as sushi once and it just tasted like cheesy peanut butter (bleagh). Maybe if I have a chance to try to fresh like that someday I’ll have to give it another go, though.

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