Yoichi Matsuri, Hokkaido

On July 5th, we drove to the Yoichi festival, which is held on the considerable grounds of the near century old Nikka whisky distillery.  And, let me tell you: It was festive!

A bandstand in front of a lounging crowd was the stage for numerous brave karaoke singers, and while the audience ate and laughed and listened and talked, others strolled the grounds and toured the distillery’s beautiful, old buildings.

Small corridors had formed and these were lined by food stalls.  Check it out: Grilled scallops in their shells, big shrimp head-on in shells, a couple of varieties of fish, and for people who prefer food from the land: Hot dogs and first-rate kaarage. Draft beer, Kirin and Sapporo, for $2.50 a cup.

No cotton candy.  No fried dough.  No sausages the size of a Buick.

The Nikka shop was jammed with tourists, all Japanese, and the items on sale were pretty typical.  I had the idea of a single malt aged whisky, but there were only half bottles available–there is an international shortage–and these were going for $90 each.  I don’t think so.

Huge bonus: On the way back up the mountain, we drove past many cherry farms and stopped at one to buy a small, plastic basket of perfect cherries.  And I do mean perfect: Tight skin, luscious and sweet and slightly sour interior.

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