January is a month of many festivals in Japan, here in Kyoto the perhaps most important is that of Toka Ebisu, at the Ebisu Shrine.
In Japanese religion, Shinto, Ebisu is the god of fortune and good luck, granting prosperity to business and fishermen and you and me (ˆ ڡ ˆ). People wanting luck in the new year make sure to visit the shrine during the festival （。＞ω＜）。
Apart from prayer a key component of the festival is the lucky bamboo branch - much like the christmas tree - visitors make sure to bring one home clad in ornaments such as old, oval gold coins, sea bream and rice bales to give luck for the coming year. Over a million people visit the shrine yearly!
While the festival itself is a experience and of great cultural value people are just as excited about what leads up to the shrine in the narrow streets - the food stalls!
Cold January days are perfect for all the warm snacks waiting. Some of our favourites include Taiyaki, gold fish shaped waffles filled with red bean or custard are the perfect sweets, or for the one with a bigger appetite Okonomiyaki - a savoury pancake topped with fish, meat and delicious sauces! Most settle for a healthy serving of Takoyaki, this kansai classic is a little omelette ball of soft inner and fresh octopus - Oishii!
Let these fried dishes inspire you when you make your Bento boxes this January!