FEATURE
Summer of Fun
KICK OFF THE SEPTEMBER HOLIDAYS WITH AN IMMERSION IN JAPANESE CULTURE AT THE JAPAN SUMMER FESTIVAL, THE LARGEST NATSU MATSURI IN SINGAPORE.
06-Sep-2019

Summer has officially hit Japan, with temperatures climbing above 35°C in some parts of the island nation. For many Japanese living overseas, the sweltering heat is a reminder of fun afternoons spent at one of the many natsu matsuri (summer festivals) that spring up across Japan every August and September. “But since last year, we’ve been able to enjoy the summer festival in a cooler venue,” explains Mrs Rie Kawashima, who has been living in Singapore for 10 years.

Mrs Kawashima is referring to the natsu matsuri held at the Singapore Sports Hub, the largest such festival in Singapore. Held in the shade of the National Stadium's dome, the Japan Summer Festival offers respite from the heat and discomfort often associated with a Japanese summer.

The festival was first held at the Sports Hub last year and returns for its second edition on 7 & 8 September. It will be held in conjunction with the quarterly Sports Hub Community Play Day, a chance for the community to come together and let loose.

THE MANY SIDES OF JAPAN

Attendees can once again look forward to immersing themselves in Japanese summer culture. Besides showcasing centuries-old traditions like the Bon-Odori dance, the festival will also feature elements of Japanese pop culture, with a Pokémon Carnival and Pikachu Dance Parade. Showing off both the past and present will help visitors understand the many faces of Japanese culture, explains Mr Kensuke Kawashima, Mrs Kawashima’s husband. “It is also informative for us and reminds us of home,” says the 40-year-old banker, who attended last year’s Japan Summer Festival as well.

And with Mr Goto Hisao at the grill, attendees can also expect to taste the many flavours that make up Japanese cuisine. “Food is a very big part of any natsu matsuri,” shares Mr Goto, a chef at the Japanese Association, Singapore. “Ask the Japanese about their memories of the summer festivals and these are likely to centre around food.” He associates the festival with crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside takoyaki. And having grown up near the waters off Nagoya, Mr Goto, 49, was treated to the freshest octopus, which was diced and stuffed into takoyaki.

Mr Goto will bring his fondness and familiarity with seafood to his stall at the Japan Summer Festival. But he won’t be the only one whipping up a storm. Wagyu rice burgers, deep-fried cheese mochi and perennial favourites like okonomiyaki (a savoury pancake) and yakisoba (fried noodles) will all jostle for space on your plate. But as Mr Goto puts it, there’s no need to pick just one from the hundred-plus stalls present. “The more food, the merrier,” he says with a laugh.

And what better way to immerse yourself in the sights and tastes of Japan than in a yukata. These kimonos are lighter and airier than their silk and hemp counterparts, making them perfect for the summer. Itching to try one on? The Japan Summer Festival features a yukata rental booth, where you can choose from a variety of designs and styles. While you’re at it, be sure to take a few photos for Instagram and tag #sgsportshub and #SportsHubPlayDay.

LINKS TO HOME

For expatriates like the Kawashimas, natsu matsuri is an integral part of Japanese culture that must be cherished, preserved and passed to future generations. “Bringing our five-year-old daughter means that she can be in touch with her Japanese culture from an early age,” shares Mr Kawashima. “Attending the Japan Summer Festival at Singapore Sports Hub lets us do just that.”

1819 TO 2019

Beyond food and performances, the Japan Summer Festival also offers a unique way of spending the opening weekend of the September school holidays. That’s because families can also immerse themselves in Singapore’s traditional culture as part of the Festival’s commemoration of the Republic’s Bicentennial year. Aptly known as the Heritage Challenge, this segment will feature games of yesteryear, among them capteh, five stones and jump rope.

For more family-friendly fun, consider signing up for the OHANA Games. This will see teams of three to five members trying out games that are a nod to Singapore’s multicultural heritage. You can show off your speed and agility with the Sumo Gata Sandals Race, while the strongmen in our midst can flex their muscles for the rickshaw-pulling challenge. Families can also take on one another with the Family Pedal Go-Kart where they will race in in “eco-friendly” pedal go-karts.

#fitspos among us can add a Japanese flavour to their workouts with the J-Pop Fitness Dance Jam session. Visitors can also sign up for the free Community Fitness Assessment, where participants are given the opportunity to keep track of their fitness progress and goals.

Must-knows when you’re at a Japanese summer festival:

  • Make an effort to be with family and friends, since that’s what the summer is all about.
  • Bring along a traditional fan. They aren’t just pretty, they are functional too! Folding fans originated in Japan during the Heian period (about 834-848 A.D.).
  • Cool down with a glass of cold mugicha (barley tea), a popular summer drink.