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Japanese men carrying an omikoshi shrine at a matsuri festival

Best Snacks at Matsuri, Japan's Lively Summer Festivals

Think that Japanese culture is all about Zen quiet and peaceful contemplation? You might be surprised to know that's only one part of the picture. One of the most famous ways that Japanese people cast off inhibition, let off steam and have a roaring good time is matsuri--the religious festivals that end in rowdy celebrations.

Japanese men carrying an omikoshi shrine at a matsuri festival

While they occur throughout the year, the most famous matsuri happen in the humid summer months, and were traditionally organized to appease gods to resolve or ward off summer-time threats like epidemics, pests and typhoons.

Japanese woman in a yukata watching fireworks at a matsuri
Highlights of these matsuri include the joyful procession of portable shrines, donning of yukata, thundering drums, fireworks, and games.

Food stall vendor selling Japanese food at a matsuri
The ultimate appeal in our opinion though is the amazing street food of matsuri. Sold by vendors at various stalls, the mix of savory and sweet foods creates an intoxicating aroma.

Here are some of our favorites matsuri snacks:

Japanese takoyaki octopus dumplings covered with bonito flakes
Takoyaki (Octopus Dumplings): These delicious savory dumplings are made with a flour flavored with dashi
and in a special pan (available here). Filled with piping hot pieces of octopus they are topped with an umami-delicious sauce.

Japanese okonomiyaki savory cabbage pancake on a grill
Okonomiyaki (Savory cabbage pancake): In this dish, cabbage is cooked in a thick batter, topped with meat or seafood. Then moreish Okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise,  dried seaweed and bonito flakes are layered on top to drool-worthy effect. Yum! Recreate this dish at home with our Okonomiyaki set.

Taiyaki Japanese fish-shaped cakes in a bento box with chopsticks
Taiyaki (Fish-shaped cake): Ready to satisfy your sweet tooth? Taiyaki will do just that. These cakes are shaped after tai, (Japanese red sea bream) a fish that symbolizes good luck and are filled with anko (sweet red bean paste), or custard. With our Taiyaki pan, and organic anko paste you can easily create this sweet afternoon snack at home!

Other classic offerings include yakisoba (noodles made with worcestershire sauce), grilled corn and squid, cotton candy and kakigori (shaved ice). If this is getting you hungry for Japanese food, check out our Japanese Food collection and cookware collection so that you can recreate tasty dishes at home.

In the new reality ushered in by the coronavirus epidemic, this year many matsuri across Japan are being cancelled or postponed. That being said, the matsuri spirit is still alive and well, as organizers are now planning small-scale matsuri events to livestream, giving fans access to behind-the-scenes footage and ways to connect digitally. Making these matsuri treats at home will take your ‘socially distanced’ matsuri experience to the next level!

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