Summer is a time when those of us who lived in Japan begin to feel nostalgic for the matsuri of our adopted home. In spite of the heat, the summer festivals of Japan were perfect little Japanese moments—just thinking about them brings the taste of yakisoba and takoyaki to your tongue. Sadly, these memories are fleeting.
It’s right around this time of year the annual Tampa Natsu Matsuri is scheduled, which is why for the past three years I have packed up my car in Miami and embarked on the four hour drive north to help out. Tampa’s Natsu Matsuri provides a chance for newly recruited JETs, JET alumni, friends of JET, and members of the Japanese community in Florida to get together and enjoy the traditional Japanese summer festival experience, while also sharing Japanese culture with Florida residents who may not know much about Japan.
As the brainchild of Florida JETAA’s Tampa regional representative John McGee (Nagano-ken, 2004-05), the festival launched in 2006. Now attracting hundreds of people, Tampa Natsu Matsuri grows annually, with more booths and attendees each year. For this summer’s event, which was held on June 15, I was very excited about our new location at Christ the King Catholic Church, which gives the festival more space to grow, and provides an outdoor area with covering and lights in case of inclement weather. The festival itself features Japanese games for kids, such as kingyo sukui (goldfish scoop), Japanese culture demonstrations, and sales of Japanese food and goods. The okonomiyaki is always a hit, and this year a few food trucks even joined us for the event.
The festival is usually held in June or July. If you’re in Tampa next summer, I hope you’ll come relive your memories of Japanese summers.