It's Golden Week! A few national holidays in a row, giving most people extra time off work. I couldn't take the Monday and Tuesday off this year, so my GW started on Wednesday.
This is my first Golden Week in Japan. I've had no idea what to do with it. Didn't feel like travelling far - too expensive. Didn't make any definite plans - couldn't decide. The temptation to just catch up on sleep and laundry was strong.
Until a coworker told me about Shokuhaku '17. A food-filled event, super conveniently being held in Osaka for the whole week. So I could go any day I wanted. And so I did.
Shokuhaku - 食博 - means 'food exhibition'. It's held once every 4 years. Like the Olympics, if there were medals for gluttony. 2017's event is the 9th Shokuhaku, which means they've been doing this since 1981? Probably. Too full to count.
This post was in danger of becoming something like a compilation Aji WOW. I deliberately didn't take many photos of food. Not because I didn't want to. It was too hard with people constantly shuffling by, and there wasn't anywhere to sit down.
The other issue was the serving sizes. At other food festivals, they give you smaller portions so you can sample more different things. Shokuhaku's vendors were dishing out full meals. Even with the amount of walking between 6 (6!) exhibit halls, I reckon I'm up at least a kilo.
This is the only thing I got pictures of. Soda served in a lightbulb. There were at least 4 stalls selling these. But I didn't see many people drinking them. Just the 2 kids that made me want to go buy this in the first place.
There was plenty of entertainment going on in the background while we ate. This elaborate dance routine was brought to us by a 'one-bite gyoza' company. And it went on for hours.
Incidentally, I was eating wagyu curry soba with cheese just before this. A rare stand that was serving half portions, so I went for it. The people sitting opposite me were desperately trying to work out what it was, but didn't want to ask me.
And not everything on offer was Japanese, either. Quite a big section was mocked up like Oktoberfest. (That's coming back to Osaka later in May, by the way.) A wide selection of German beers, sausages, and flags.
Back in January, I went to a similar Japan-focused event at Tokyo Dome: Furusato Matsuri. That one had weird and unusual foods from every prefecture. It was also far busier - less space between food stalls, and fewer places to sit.
Shokuhaku had a 'furusato' area, but the prefecture booths were selling more food to take home, not to eat there. What they did have was festival floats from around the country. These super cool exhibits below are for the Nebuta Matsuri held in Aomori prefecture.
Shokuhaku also provided re-enactments of regional festivals and dances. Because apparently food is not enough of a draw for some people. Here are some dancers performing Nara's Basara Matsuri. I took this from the free viewing area downstairs.
And this is the photo I got of the dancing still going on. But taken from a window seat in the event hall's cafe on the 2nd floor. (Coffee was necessary by that point.)
On the way out, I was stopped by a nice lady with a clipboard. They were doing feedback questionnaires, and especially wanted foreigner reactions.
I kept my answers mostly positive - hey, I enjoyed myself. But they asked me if I'd recommend Shokuhaku to people. And I had to say 'maybe not'. It's kinda hard (and pointless) urging people to go to something that won't happen again until 2021. I can't tell you to try it when it's not on for literally years.
So what I'll say is this: You should eat more Japanese food. It's always a great experience.