the matsuri

BY SAKURA YONEYAMA (staff writer)

it was a hot night, standing in the crowded street with a sash tight around my waist and my legs lightly celled into a wall of thick fabric. my kimono swooshed slightly as i walked stiffly through the bustling crowd. children screamed with joy while parents laughed heartily over a mug of beer. it felt like summer, like one could almost smell the fizzing and popping of the fireworks, as if one could almost reach out and touch the happy clouds that surrounded every child there, as if one could hear the buzzing of warmth and glowing street lamps.

along each side of the closed off street, there were bright, brilliant stands advertising all kinds of delights: food, sweets, fun games, even goldfish. the banners on each stand screamed words at me, and the outlines of their vivid characters imprinted themselves in my mind. all around me, people dressed up just like me strolled around, chattering away and laughing. it was almost dazzling, seeing so many people, so many individual lives and thoughts shoved into a few streets worth of experience.

as i walked along, looking for a certain famous takoyaki stand, i couldn’t help but feel beautiful: my kimono was gifted to me by my grandmother, with hot, red swirly patterns and delicate pink Sakura flowers adorned with gold insides.

my sash was a filmy light pink fabric, tied in the back by an elegant bow. i felt rightly japanese, at the matsuri, the annual summer festival.

i was with my grandma, my mother, and my two siblings. as we strolled through the streets, as happy as i was, it was hard to ignore the nagging thought in the back of my brain: i was flying back to brazil that night. as much as i loved brazil, i also adored my grandma’s house. the days where i would wake up from my futon and go down to find that my grandma had cooked breakfast with us was a core memory that seemed to be a part of me. the days spent walking to the frigidly air conditioned supermarket, and just staring in awe at the amount of produce and products. the days spent in cool, shiny department stores while my grandma treated us to oversized cream puffs and steaming bowls of ramen.

that night, i was looking to spend; my mom had given 1,000 yen to me and my siblings each. before leaving the house, my grandma had slipped us a few more coins, telling us that it was one of the few chances we had of fully enjoying a matsuri.

as much as i wanted to splurge on a number of things, like the goldfish scooping stand or the thousands of foods being cooked and created, the choices available to me overwhelmed me. the smells of cooking yakiniku and chocolate sweets wafted all the way to me, the flashy led lights on every stand beckoned me to come a little closer, to hand over some coins for an unforgettable memory or souvenir. meanwhile, while i walked around partially mesmerized, my brother went crazy with delight. his first purchase, a mask of his favorite character, was quickly forgotten when he realized he could buy food as well.

we decided to have some shaved ice before properly digging into a meal, and the sweet syrup and cold ice filled me with a type of exhilarating joy. the night was yet to fully bloom into its splendor of fireworks and glowing eyes, i still had so much (although never enough) time to fully take in this momentous night. my flight was still hours away, there was still a long stretch of time for me to bathe in the warmth of the matsuri.

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