Interview: SuperMatsuri - Experience Japanese Festival Like A Japanese Person

川崎市民祭り

Today I will introduce you to a Turk who does one of my dream jobs. He moved to Japan seven years ago and is now running a Yokohama-based Cultural Festival Tourism Company. If you don't speak Japanese but you want a real and unforgettable Japan holiday by experiencing interesting festivals all over Japan, Mesut Doğan is the one to call.

Burcu: Welcome to my page, Mr. Doğan. First of all, I must say that you are doing an enviable job for a writer like me who loves researching and concentrates on cultural exchange projects. The power of the festivals are bringing people together and miraculously making them get closer. Is that what happened to you? Can you tell us about your first festival?

Mesut Dogan: Hello, Ms. Burcu. First of all, I greet your readers on your page. And thank you very much for the interview. I agree with you, the traditional cultural festivals are an excellent opportunity. Especially in Japan, which has a homogenous society that is closed to the outside world, they are really a miracle as you mentioned. The first festival I attended was TaikoMatsuri on an island with a summer resort called Shodoshima.


小豆島 First festival I attended at Shodoshima - Taiko Matsuri

I am apologizing from readers that I will begin from the beginning. After falling in love with my wife in Izmir, we moved to Japan and first lived in Tokyo for the first three years. Generally, when you are living abroad, the period of getting used to the new country is between three and six months. Japan is different. It was a very difficult process to adapt to Japan. After a very busy process of learning Japanese after the age of thirty, and almost immediately after that a career that nearly started from scratch. While I was working in a 5 star hotel in Tokyo, I got a job offer from Setonaikai that is a region famous for its olives in Japan and similarity to the Aegean region of Turkey. In April we moved to Shodoshima, the largest island in the region. I was involved in the reconstruction of a local group of hotels. We moved in April, time passed, it was early September and still I couldn’t meet anyone on this little island, I couldn’t socialize. When I brought it up with the boss, he said that there was a local cultural festival and that it would be useful to attend. 

 
深川水かけまつり Matsuri with my daughter, Sakura and my son, Kaya

It was my fourth year in the country, I didn't have much hope, but I got up early on the morning of the Festival and went to the gathering area. They mounted two thick poles with a length of ten meters to a wooden structure horizontally from the left and right. There were four boys in it, the clothes looked like our “janizary”, they were muttering a prayer and were beating in a slow rhythm with the mallets in their hands. More than a hundred of men were taking turns to carry this structure together on their shoulders. It weighed about two tons. Anyone who saw me, thought I was an alien, looked at my face with a confused expression, and I was more confused than them. What was that?!I was in shock!. I didn’t understand the purpose of it, why it's done. After the first shock, I introduced myself and started doing what they were doing. I started to carry with them the structure they called “Taiko”. As the hours passed, I managed to communicate with the people of the island who I couldn’t get close to for months and even made proggress. In the afternoon there was almost nobody who didn’t know who I was and many of them became my friends. 

小豆島 First festival I attended in Shodoshima

 

After the festival, my life on the island gained another dimension. I was accepted, and known. Once the people who ignored my greeting on the road, now calling me by my name. At a dizzying speed I suddenly existed in this homogeneous and closed society. They knew where I was from and my name now. It was an indescribable feeling and pleasure for me.

Burcu: Is the reason that you started this business because of your experiences at the festival?

Mesut Doğan: Yes. I attended the festival again in the second year. This time I knew everyone, and  I was experienced, but I saw a group of six or seven people for the first time. They didn’t greet me or even speak with me. I wondered and investigated who these people were. I learned that they were part-time employees who were called from another city for the festival. I was surprised. 

小豆島2nd year Shodoshima Taiko Matsuri

 

The festival is passion, enthusiasm, purification, forgetting, learning, joy, but I never thought it could be a part-time job. Then that day I confronted the social and economic realities of present-day Japan. Japan is a very old country, more than fifty percent of Japanese culture will disappear in thirty years, as modern society is now urban and sociologically new.

Then I said we should call for volunteers. They should have fun and help the cultural festivals to continue. Japanese people from different regions or tourists from inside or outside the country. I started getting interested in Japanese festivals. Then I started researching and it turned into a hobby, and one day the biggest airline in the country was knocking on my door. They said they were planning to establish a Festival Tourism website and wanted me as an advisor. Another one asked me to organize a tour. Interview offers, and even national television programs... I have read dozens of books in two years and attended nearly three hundred festivals. This is how SuperMatsuri started its adventure in Japan.

上総一ノ宮十二社祭り TENGU

 

Burcu: Can you give us information about SuperMatsuri? In what porpose people can apply to your company?

Mesut Doğan: SuperMatsuri is a Cultural Festival Tour and Event Organization company. It’s stillin its infancy. Our company consists of me and two employees. We organize tours and activities for visitors interested in Japan and Japanese culture, where they can experience festivals. We provide Translation and Consultancy services to local public institutions and organizations. In 2020, we will start organizing events to promote Japanese Cultural Festivals and Traditional Handicraft products abroad. For example, we will have Nippon Culture and Art Fair 2020 in İzmir Historical Gas Factory Culture Center on May 30-31, 2020.

Burcu: Japan is a country with plenty of festivals. What are the most popular festivals by season?

Mesut Doğan: Yes, like you said Ms. Burcu, there are a lot of festivals in this culture. Over 300,000 festivals. Except for the Obon (extremely hot and humid season in July and August), several festivals are held in Japan every weekend. The festivals are divided into seasons as you mentioned. 

ふるさと祭り東京 with my son, Kaya - Aomori Nebuta Festival.jpg

 

In Summer, the Nebuta Festival in the city of Aomori that is in the northern part of the country.

In Spring, Sakura (Cherry blossom watching and picnicking) Festivals.

In Autumn, Omikoshi (Portable Shrine) at Kanda Shinto Shrine in Tokyo and Danjiri Festival in Kishiwada in Osaka. 

秩父夜祭 chichibu Yomatsuri

 

In winter, ChichibuYomatsuri in Chichibu City in Saitama Province, north of Tokyo, and Somin Festival at Kokuseki Shrine in Iwate Province, in the north of the country.

These are world-knowned festivals that come to my mind right now and many of them have also entered the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.

Burcu: In which languages ​​do you conduct your tours?

Mesut Doğan: We are making our tours in English, Japanese and Turkish for now. We will be providing tour services in Chinese, French and Spanish as soon as possible.

ふるさと祭り東京Haiya Odori

Burcu: For example, I want to attend the Koshi Fire Festival in March. When do you step in? What does the tour program cover?

Mesut Doğan: When you tell us about your wishes to participate in any Festival, we request your identification and travel information immediately.

In addition, we start our processing immediately after completing our form which tells us about what stages of your travel you want services from us. First of all, we inform your partners in the festival organizing committee about your participation and experience. After approval, our guests are informed about the conditions and details. When details of travel and festival attendance are determined and agreed upon, the contract and payment process takes place. 

牛深ハイヤTokyo Nihon Odori Festival

I would like to mention here that each festival has its own rules and conditions. Some organizations may be flexible, taking into account the current conditions, but some festivals pay close attention to strict rules.

As an example, Omikoshi (Portable Shrine) is carried on the shoulders and in the past it was forbidden for women to participate or even touch it, but now they can participate if they meet the minimum requirements for women.

2019.2.11 黒石寺蘇民祭 Somin Festival

 Another example is the Somin Festival. Certainly, women's participation is not possible. Participants have to enter a strict VEGAN diet a week before the festival.

Burcu: Tourists not only buy package tours, but they can also prepare their own tour programs. Can you talk about the process?

寄居Samurai Festivali

 

Mesut Doğan: In today's conditions, I think that package tour sales and classic Tour operator working model are over. It is no longer satisfactory, to give money to the agencies for small tour organizations where visitors can simply make from their own smart phones. 

上総一ノ宮十二社祭りStewen from Hawaii and Me

 

Visitors not only want to see, they also want to experience, explore, challenge and immediately share on social media. In our model, our visitors imform us the date they will visit, the number of people, the content they want to see and experience. Then we create the tour program with our visitors from the drafts we prepared. Our visitor pays us not for the train ticket or the hotel where he will stay, but for our companionship, friendship, experience and guidence. After agreeing on the details and plan with our guest, we proceed to the contract and payment stage. After the payment process is finished we accompany him on his journey to the end of the activity experience.

匝瑳市Çiba Mizukake Matsuri ( water festival and my first tour)

 

Burcu: Thank you for the interview. I am sure that your company's contribution to Japanese tourism will soon attract attention due to the convenience they provide for foreign tourists.

Social Media Accounts Of SuperMatsuri:



https://twitter.com/supermatsurijp

 

My Instagram

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