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.
My friends and I decided to stay overnight and camp on the island. We found a nice spot next to a little “cove”.
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.
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.
After gorging ourselves on uni, we rented bikes and burned off the calories with a ride around the island.
We completed the day back at the dock with beers in our hands and watched a spectacular fireworks display.
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!