Behind the Scenes of TANABATA WISH: Festival Food

August 10, 2018

I didn't talk about all the cool matsuri (festival) food in my last blog post about the Ichinomiya Tanabata Matsuri, because I wanted to dedicate an entire blog post to it. So, without further ado...It's Foodie Friday! Think about it. Festival food is not (for the most part) fine dining. It's quick to make, portable, and usually easy to eat with your hands. Every culture has its own version of festival food. If you go to Oktoberfest in Berlin, you will find bratwursts, schnitzels, and beer. If you go to the Arizona State Fair, you'll find a mixture of cultures represented in our fair food including funnel cakes, Navajo fry bread, and deep-fried tamales on a stick. So, it's no surprise that Japan has its own version of festival foods. Some of these you can find outside of festivals too, but I wanted to specifically include ones that I found while researching my book. For today's behind-the-scenes look at TANABATA WISH, we dive into all things festival food. Itadakimasu


In this scene of TANABATA WISH, Sky, David (Ryouhei) and their friends--and secret couple!--Emi and Hiro have entered the Ichinomiya Tanabata Matsuri wearing traditional festival attire and are contemplating what to eat. 

 "I'm hungry." David pulls my arm toward the food vendors. "Are you feeling adventurous tonight?"


As we walk around trying to figure out what we want to eat, I shamelessly take pictures of all the fair food. No funnel cakes or deep-fried pickles or fry bread like at the Arizona State Fair, that's for sure. I take a picture of Hiro and his squid-on-a-stick. Emi buys a taiyaki sundae--a fish-shaped cake with red bean paste in its tail and a swirl of vanilla ice cream coming out of the fish's mouth. I make David buy takoyaki just so I can take his picture with it. Then I have to listen to David and Hiro make jokes about octopus balls for the next five minutes.


"Nani?" Emi says, confused.


"Never mind," I say to Emi. "You don't want a translation on that."


"What do you eat?" Emi says, offering me a bite of her next festival treat, a thin cucumber about a foot long that has miso paste smeared all over it.


"I can't decide. I want to try everything. Okay, not the squid-on-a-stick, but everything else."


David and Hiro continue to snicker as Emi links her arm through mine and leads us deeper into the festival fray. I don't worry about losing the guys. They will always be able to find me. There are some advantages to sticking out in a crowd.


"How about kakigouri?" Emi says, pointing to the vendor behind me.


"Yes! That's what I want."


I take a picture of the kakigouri man as he shaves down a cylinder of ice until it is truly snow, not the icy grains you get at the Snow Shack. The man double checks with Emi when I point to the plastic display version of the traditional Japanese snow cone I want.

 "Kaitai desu," I insist that I want to buy it.


The man shrugs and pours dark green matcha syrup on top of the heaping pile of snow. I continue my series of pictures as he drizzles condensed milk on top. Finally, he adds a heaping tablespoon of super-sweet anko beans to one side and a trio of mochi balls, pounded sticky rice, to the other. I have Emi take a picture of me with the final product before I dig in. I dip my spoon deep into the shaved ice so I can get a bite incorporating all the different flavors and textures.

Ahhhh, are you drooling yet? Want to make homemade kakigouri for dessert tonight? If you have a snow cone machine at home and an Asian grocery store nearby, you can make this dish. Sky picked the very traditional version of kakigouri, but the kind I see the most often in Japan is simply strawberry syrup with condensed milk on top. Give it a try, take a picture, and tag me on social media!


So what did I eat at the Ichinomiya Tanabata Matsuri with my Hikoboshi? Tune in next Friday to find out. A hint: Though I did eat a version of the kakigouri above, Toshi and I had a mixture of old-school favorites and some new concoctions.


Want to see more of Sky's romantic adventure at the Ichinomiya Tanabata Matsuri? You can buy the paperback version of TANABATA WISH here and the eBook here.

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