In our Hokkaido trip we’ve stayed at Wakkanai, the northernmost city in Japan for a few days. In our first morning there when we went out, we saw people preparing small stalls along the roads near our hotel. We did not have any idea what was going on and forgot about it quickly.
Then in the evening when we were back, the street was full of people – not tourists, but local people: elderly, adults, kids, basically everyone and some of them wearing traditional clothes. The small stalls were all lit up with lights and as we walked along them, we saw everything: mini game stalls, different merchandises and of course, snacks. Everyone is enjoying the moment and on everyone’s face there was only one thing: smile. We walked for a while, sampling a bit of snacks that we’ve never saw before and even though we are tourists, the atmosphere made us feel we are locals.
Later we realised that the period we were staying was actually the annual North Gate Shrine Festival in the city. The North Gate Shrine is a shrine for a local deity who guard the area. In Japan, there were lots of similar festivals in different area and typically apart from the fair we were in, there will be other ceremonies as well.
Even though we did not believe in those deities, we felt very lucky to have the chance to “feel like locals”. Having said that the fair did cause us a problem: We were driving there and obviously our GPS won’t know about this fair – and the associated route changes. It took us a while for us to find the correct route back to the hotel!