Things to Do at the Fukushima Waraji Festival
The Fukushima Waraji Festival might be small compared to most of the other major festivals in Tohoku, but it still has plenty of fun to offer. Here are some recommendations to get you started.
Get a hands-on experience with Japan's biggest straw sandal
The centerpiece of the Fukushima Waraji Festival is a two-ton, 12-meter-long straw sandal. While it’s not on show during the parade, this giant sandal, as well as a couple of other oversized sandals, are on display at the end of the street where the parade takes place. You will see countless people approaching the sandal to touch it as it is said to give you good luck in your travels.
Enjoy the shows by local talent
Besides the parade every night, most of the festival activities take place at the Machinaka Hiroba, a big square in the middle of the city where a stage is erected especially for various local performers to show off their talent during the days that the festival is on. These include dance and musical performances of all genres.
Sample the local festival food
No Japanese festival is complete without plenty of street food and this one is no exception. Everything from chicken and beef skewers to fried soba noodles and other festival staple foods are available from the stalls near the main stage as well as at other spots around town. As the Fukushima region is widely renowned for its high quality sake, you will also find plenty of stands specializing in various local kinds of the delicious rice wine.
Throw water on the Waraji Race teams
One of the festival highlights is the Waraji Race which takes place in the afternoon of the second day. While participation in the race itself is only available to pre-registered themes, spectators can join in the fun by throwing water on the participants. Along the race course, you will see several places with large buckets and scoops. Join the queue and you’ll get your turn to give the runners a well needed shower as they struggle along with the giant straw sandal.
Mingle with the dancers
The main highlight of the Fukushima Waraji Festival is the numerous dance parades that take place during the evenings. While you need to be a part of a registered team to join them, you can at least help cheer on them and provide a morale boost during the performance. Before and after the parade sessions (there are several every night), most of the dancers tend to gather around the street where the majority of the food stands are located. When we visited, they were very friendly and cheerful, and many members of the audience took the chance to get photos together with the eclectic teams of performers.