Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Soba Matsuri in Toga

(I suppose it's been ages since I last made a post, and I vowed not to leave it so long, so I checked into Betty Ford and now I'm a new man, one that can stick to his blog posting.)

The Toga Soba Matsuri (the Toga Village Buckwheat Noodle Festival) was a lot more fun than it sounds. After a treaturous trip up windy, narrow roads with no barriers, covered in snow and ice, we finally arrived in Toga last Saturday, a small village of about 800 people up in the Toyama alps. Every year they come together with prefectural and regional support to celebrate the Winter with grand snow sculptures, traditional dance, dragging a tribally-clad man around on a log, and fireworks set to music, lights and dancing at the end of the night.

The festival is also a time to warm up with hot soba, one of the three main noodle soups in Japan, made of buckwheat, served in a soup base with veggies and tempura. Many soba merchants also take advantage of the festival to sell fresh noodles for home-cooking.

OK, I suppose it sounds a little lame, but it was actually tons of fun. What was most impressive was how a small mountain-top village of only 800 could pull it off. After the fireworks, we set out along the exiting roads, bordered by walls of snow with small, carved out caverns every few meters which were candle-lit, offering a really relaxing sight until we left the village... and then feared for our lives once more on the ride home.

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