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.

A Bit of Matsuri History

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. The Gion Matsuri, Kyoto's biggest festival, has been held since the year 869, started in response to an epidemic that was ravaging the city.

Japanese woman in a yukata watching fireworks at a matsuri
Highlights of the 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

Delicious Matsuri Food

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:

Takoyaki (Octopus Dumplings)

Japanese takoyaki octopus dumplings covered with bonito flakes
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.

Okonomiyaki (Savory cabbage pancake)

Japanese okonomiyaki savory cabbage pancake on a grill
 In this dish, cabbage is cooked in a thick batter, topped with meat or seafood. Then moreish Okonomiyaki sauce, Kewpie 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 (Fish-shaped cake)

Taiyaki Japanese fish-shaped cakes in a bento box with chopsticks
 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).

Matsuri and COVID19

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!

Edit: July, 2022. This year, after a two-year hiatus, the Gion Matsuri will take place in Kyoto and the whole city is excited! Be sure to follow our Instagram account to get a peek into this year's celebrations!

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3 comments

Hi Antoinette! We sell Taiyaki Pans, which you can find here: https://en.bentoandco.com/products/tai-yaki-pan
The page includes a recipe as well. If any other questions, let us know!

Bento&co

I would love to be able to make such lovely fish, filled with sweet bean paste
or custard.
Could you please tell me how and where i could acquire a mould , where,
and how much it would be in American dollars.
With thanks,
A. C

A. Constable

I would truly love one mould to make these fish filled with either custard or your
traditional sweet bean paste.
How may I acquire one and a few recipes?
With thanks,
Antoinette Constable ( a French woman who is too old now to travel to your country but
is interested in your food.)

Antoinette Constable

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