[:en]A festival with free sanma

The Japanese Autumn features many festivals, with many different focuses. In September, one festival in Meguro – south from Shibuya – serves free, grilled sanma (pacific saury) to thousands of visitors. This year, at the Meguro Kumin Festival on the 16th of September, 5,000 fish were given out during festival hours. To avoid a long line of 5,000 people waiting to get their grilled food, guests receive armbands that dictated at what time they should line up. With 30 minutes intervals this is a great system in theory, but unfortunately did not quite hold up. At noon, a 200m long line of people were still patiently waiting to receive their 11 AM fish. But as the fish is said to be the most delicious this time of year, it is understandable that people were determined to have their share of saury that day.

The making of sanma: the smoke was so heavy that many of the ‘chefs’ were wearing goggles and towels over their faces

A snapshot of the sanma after having received various garnishes


For the festival-goers who either did not make it in time to receive a place in line for sanma, or who might not wish to get the free fish, there was plenty of other festival food to eat and try, as well as fresh produce or specially brewed beer. Moreover, there was a performance which included traditional, live music, in which drum playing could be heard far off and gave the festival a good vibe.

The booths, stands, and grills were mainly set up in Dendo Hyoba Park, which also meant limited space; using the fenced off sports area, thin, blue tarp was laid out to hold down the sand, as the many visitors moved around the grounds. But nearby on both the bridge and across the Meguro river were more stands with foods and drinks, so there was rich opportunity for everyone to get a little bit of everything.

The entrance to the main festival area short before noon

So even if sanma isn’t your favourite dish, this festival is still quite something to experience. As the Summer has passed at this time of year, the weather can be quite cool, even while surrounded by many other people. The scenery is also quite interesting and taking a walk along the river can be a lovely change after indulging on delicious foods. Since the festival barely requires half a day, it can be good event to plot into your schedule with other half-day sightings, like a short visit to the TOP Museum in Ebisu, only 15 minutes away on foot from Meguro.

A final glance at the festival area revealed the heavy smoke looming in the trees