On my second day in Japan, I was invited by my Japanese host, Yukari, to a Shrimp Festival on the top of a mountain in the countryside of Kyushu Island. I was a little confused as to why they would carry the shrimp from the ocean up a mountain, just to have a festival, but I was excited about the journey, so of course agreed to go. We were joined by one of her friends from Mexico who was a student at the local University and a couch-surfer from France.
I was told it would be about a 45 minute hike and Yukari’s mother and her mothers friends would be making the journey as well. Unfortunately, it was raining in buckets and while the elders of the group were not deterred, the 4 of us decided to take the “easy” way, by car. The easy way was terrifying and after driving up possibly the most harrowing roads I have ever been on in my life, we finally made it to our destination.
The scene reminded me a bit of a rainbow gathering and I was excited to be somewhere so remote and beautiful. We were quickly invited to all sit together in a private room were a traditional Japanese meal was laid out for us to enjoy, including green tea, rice, pickled vegetables, miso, sake, and fish.
While I was not too concerned about the lack of shrimp at the shrimp festival, one person in the group was. After a confused pause, he said, “So, where are the shrimp?”
Yukari, more confused replied, “shrimp? What, shrimp?”
“You know shrimp? For the shrimp festival?”
“Oh, shrimp! You thought I said shrimp?! No…shrine. It’s a Shrine festival!
So, there we were enjoying a lovely meal on the top of a beautiful mountain at a traditional Japanese Shrine Festival. Ultimately much more interesting and unique than shrimp…