Embedded Travel Guides: We are searching the world for folks who can take you on a field trip of their "backyard." When we find these folks, we then stealthy embed them into their local travel scene and ask them to be our eyes and ears out in the field.
We are expecting the same sort of grainy video, choppy sentences and snapshot photos that you are use to seeing from other sorts of embeds. At the end of the day we should be left with a backyard travel guidebook like no other.
Our man in Osaka is AJ McGuire, and, wow, does he have stories to tell.
With all the boozing that goes on, it's surprising that the average Osakan can remember what happened last night, let alone a few hundred years ago. But remember they do. The Osaka area has deep roots and recalls its rich history with literally hundreds of local festivals of all sizes and levels of revelry.
No matter what time of year it is, there's a festival going on somewhere in Kansai. An hour on the train and you can get your fix of seasonal festival fare (fried chicken or squid in the summer, doughy red bean-filled mochi in the winter) and max out your camera's memory card with parades, dances, decorations and offerings of incense, prayers, rice, sake and other choice treats. The sum effect is an opportunity for the community to come together, and whenever that happens, of course, there's always a bit of a party.
While in Osaka, I was lucky enough to drop by Kishiwada's Danjiri Matsuri, an annual festival that ranks among Japan's most famous (or possibly infamous). The centerpiece of this festival is the parading of the danjiri, massive wooden carts that hold a portable shrine and a half-dozen or more musicians and hype men.
Kishiwada's festival is notorious for how dangerous it is. At least one participant or onlooker is killed each year as the danjiri whip around tight corners and down narrow lanes, sometimes shearing off roof tiles and throwing wagon riders to the pavement. The effect is something like Pamplona's running of the bulls, substituting four-ton wooden carts and throngs of hapi-coated celebrants for the bulls. If you happen to be anywhere near Osaka in mid-September, don't miss it.
If death and sacred wood moving at breakneck speeds doesn't do it for you, Kishiwada's festival sports all the other trappings of a Japanese festival, including street vendors with games of chance and every kind of food you could possibly fry or grill. Nothing makes for a better vacation photo than munching on a skewered grilled squid with a blurry sacred siege engine whizzing by in the background.
If you're looking to attend a festival when you're in town, ask around or consult local tourist information offices. They tend to be staffed by the sort that considers squid munching and photographing mayhem to be the greatest high. For advance notice of other fun festivals, check out Kansai Scene's event listings for what's going on.
· Kansai Scene Event Listings [Official Site]
· Embedded Travel Guides coverage [Jaunted]
· Osaka Travel coverage [Jaunted]
· Osaka Hotels [HotelChatter]