I had my first real taste of Japanese festivals last night with Iida city's annual apple festival, Ringon Matsuri (りんごんまつり). The city is known for the apple trees which line it's streets, and as such has adopted the apple as it's symbol. Every year 10,000 people take to the streets, dressed in their various groups' (defined by place of work, sport team, and so on) outfits.
We arrived in the early afternoon to take a look around the various festival stalls; sampled the various foods as takoyaki (octopus), chocolate bananas, ika on a stick (squid) and grilled soy corncobs. After a few beers and a quick tutorial from Bryce, our block leader, we were ready to do the Ringon dance.
For the next 2 hours we pranced up and down the main streets in the city centre, chanting "ringon ringon", cheering the 10,000 locals and admiring the various groups' team outfits. I saw ninja, giants mascots, clowns, etc... which made our 'costumes' of apple bandanas seem rather tame, but at least we added to the colour. Beer and sake flowed, we danced some more, and a great time was had by all.