April in Otawara means the Yatai festival or Yatai Matsuri..
Yatai Matsuri in Otawara is a loud, fun, musical(ish) 2 day event based around the Kanodoro in downtown Otawara…
It is a local festival involving wooden floats called Yatai, which are traditionally small, mobile food stalls in Japan typically selling ramen or other food. The name literally means “shop stand.”
The floats are beautifully decorated with carvings of animals, dragons, monkeys, with lots of different lanterns that light up at night.
Some floats are plain (but beautiful) wood, some are lacquered, some painted. They are all very different and each one comes from a region around Otawara…
There are nine floats, and I have managed to get some information about 7 of them (I think the original, traditional 7) and where they’re from.
- Aramachi (Aramachi) 荒 町（あらまち）
- Above town (Kami-cho) 上 町（かみちょう）(I think uptown!)
- Teramachi (Teramachi) 寺 町（てらまち）
- Motomachi (Motomachi) 元 町（もとまち）
- Under Town (butterfly servants)下 町（しもちょう）
( Translation is Shita cho and I think it means down town)
- Sakae-cho (Sakae-cho) 栄 町（さかえちょう）
- Nakamachi (Naka) 仲 町（なかまち）
Everyone is dressed in traditional clothing and each cart is full of musicians, playing drums and flutes and on the top of the cart are 3 or 4 people who get the crowd moving and supporting them.. My best understanding is that this is a competition that involves different Yatai coming together to make the most music/noise.. Then at the end of the evening they all come together in a big circle and make as much noise as possible, for the final cart battle – with everyone supporting their “Yatai” team by making as much cheering as you can. In the middle of this a couple of gaijin having a ball, it was so much fun, albeit a little deafening…