I Accidentally Ate a Bug at Neputa Matsuri

Taiko drummers

The coveted position of the taiko drumming women

The most famous Nebuta Matsuri (“matsuri” means “festival” in English) is in Aomori Prefecture. Aomori Prefecture is about 6 hours away by train and about 18,000 yen one way (currently around 200 USD) from where I live. That is 6 more hours and 18,000 more yen than I had, so, needless to say, I did not go to the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori.

Neputa Float

Neputa Float in daylight

Instead, I went to the local “Neputa Matsuri,” (spelled slightly differently) a mere 20-minute car ride and an afternoon of volunteering away. I was there with a group helping corral young students who were marching and playing cymbals in the parade. If we are being honest, the adult-to-kid ratio was pretty high and my Japanese-to-English-ability ratio is pretty low, so there wasn’t much for me to do besides enjoy the festival. And I definitely did! Lots of delicious stall food was consumed and lots of pictures were taken.

Neputa Float

Neputa (Nebuta) Festival

Nebuta Festivals are best known for their giant lantern floats. The elaborately decorated floats were impressive during the day, but at night, when they were lit up, they were truly something to behold. Festival participants pulled the floats down the street, accompanied by dancers and taiko drummers. I was told that one of the most coveted positions was to be one of the women sitting on and playing a taiko drum on one of the floats. The climax of the festival was right before the end — everyone brought the floats to the middle of a big intersection and danced to the sound of drums, cymbals, and flutes.

Neputa float at night

Neputa lantern float at night

For the majority of the festival, I walked along with the group and chatted with some of the other group members. This is where we get to the part clarifying this post’s title. Somewhere in the middle of the festival, I was chatting with one of the other group members. I had gotten passionate about whatever topic we were talking about and took a deep breath in to prepare to make an especially important point.I don’t remember what point I was going to make, in part because sometime during that deep breath, I inhaled an insect. Judging from what little I had to go on, I’d guess it was a flying bug no longer than one centimeter (fortunately not a rhinoceros beetle). I coughed a bit, but there was no use. I had to swallow it. One of the most disturbing aspects of the whole affair was that I was unable to convey the incident in a way that drew any kind of significant reaction, be it sympathy or laughter. You’d think that accidentally eating a bug would warrant something from others beyond an, “Oh.” I’m just going to put it down to others being jealous. Extra protein for me.

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