AFTER weeks of unseasonal rain, the Kutchan Jaga Matsuri (Kutchan Potato Festival) was graced with perfect weather on Saturday.
It seemed the whole of Kutchan took advantage of the picture-perfect bluebird weather to celebrate their town and its most famous produce.
Kutchan is a town of 15,000 people and is the main government and business town servicing the Niseko United ski resorts, just a 10 minute drive away.
A majority of the town would have ventured down to the main street at some stage during the weekend, with the event peaking on Saturday night with thousands of people, young and old, lining Eki Mae Dori (Train Station Road) to watch the Nebuta (float) Parade.
A bit of drizzle hung around on Sunday but not enough to dampen the mood or stop any of the planned activities or the major fireworks display in the evening.
Rain has somehow dogged the festival for the past three years, so everyone was well prepared to handle the few drops that fell this time around.
Summer festivals play a huge role in Japanese culture across the length and breadth of the country, and Hokkaido is no different.
The Kutchan Jaga Matsuri is the biggest local summer festival and gives people a chance to wear summer kimonos, watch fireworks, eat traditional Japanese barbecue food, play traditional festival games, and get together with family and meet up with neighbours.
One of Japan’s biggest festivals – the week-long Aomori Nebuta Festival – also started this weekend just south of Hokkaido on the northern part of Japan’s mainland island of Honshu, with a number of Japanese and foreign Niseko locals making the journey down to check it out.
Meanwhile, to explain our lack of sunshine and abundance of rain recently, the Japan Meteorological Agency has reported sunlight hours in Hokkaido were among the shortest in more than half a century for July.
The agency says sunlight hours were only 54 percent of the annual average for July, the shortest sunlight hours since 1946.