Mardi gras in Japan? Okay, so not exactly the cultural event that you’d expect of the country of sushi, sumo and hello kitty. And perhaps even more surprising for a small provincial city noted for its original castle, passion for the tea ceremony, and traditional myths and legends. Nonetheless, it was here in small city of Matsue in Western Japan that a successful (despite being more than slightly out of season) Mardi gras parade and concerts were held (Oct. 6th).
And the reason you ask? Well, Matsue established relations with the city of New Orleans, Lousiana in 1993, and despite a lull in exchange events in recent years, the handshake of friendship was once again revived during an official visit from Matsue to New Orleans in 2012. New Orleans then returned the favour, but sending a delegation to Matsue in early October of this year, and joined in commemorating 10 years of friendship city relations.
The core factor joining these two cities lies is one Lafcadio Hearn, a writer/journalist/novelist and traveller extraordinaire, who spent a relatively long period in New Orleans before coming to Matsue where he met his wife to be and based a lot of his writings on Japan and Japanese culture which would go on to be published in numerous countries and languages, and endear Hearn to the local residents of Matsue where he is still commemorated today.
The parade consisted of the visiting delegation from New Orleans, the home of Mardi gras celebrations, a brass band with members even travelling from Tokyo to participate, and local bands and school brass bands. Fortunately, the rain and cloud of the previous day cleared and made way for blue skies, putting the final seal of good fortune on the event.
While Matsue’s Mardi Gras was held in October for fiscal reasons, and I imagine it must pale in comparison to the real deal, here are just a few photos from the parade at one stage when the entourage stopped in the centre of Ohashi, Matsue’s most historical and traditional bridge.