Thursday February 3rd. Saga Airport Park, Kawasoe Town.
Pedalling flat-out on a "granny bike" certainly builds up an appetite - and luckily once I finally arrived at the festival there were plenty of things to sample. With tweed jacket, flat cap and welly boots on, I entered the main arena/tent looking dapper and definitely agri"cultural".
But onto the eating. Avoiding the usual Japanese festival stall food (anpanman and doraemon cakes, cold fried chicken, jumbo octopus balls etc), I made my way to the inner sanctum where locally-sourced ingredients were used to create some great dishes.
The minced pork and lotus root hot buns (特別肉まん), from the Kashima area of Saga Prefecture, were juicy and a little sweet. The Daatan soba noodles, named after an ancient tribe from Northern China, were thicker than your average soba and, even though there was NO yuzukoshou, they were very tasty and perfect for a slightly harsh mid-winter day. According to the old lady who served them, they were also good for me, as they have a high concentration of Rutin (more info here http://www.hellolife.com/dattan.html) - by this time I was too busy slurping to hear exactly what she was banging on about.
Other notable highlights included fresh mikan juice, smoked cheeses, roll cake, organic ureshino tea and youkan tasting - plus of course plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood from all over Saga Prefecture. There were events of some kind on the main stage during the day, such as Enka singing and a gardening demonstration, but thankfully I missed them!
If you have some time to kill or would like to sample/buy local Saga goods then the festival is worth a visit. Each day also has different events and different produce from a variety of regions.
The line-up for the next few days is :
Friday, February 4th - Farm produce from Ogi City, Taku City and Yamato Town. Plus goods from Kashima and Ureshino.
12:00-13:00 Karaoke Tournament!
Saturday Feb 5th - Farm produce from all over Saga Prefecture!
Anpanman Event 10:00 - 10:50 and 14:30 - 15:20
11:30 - 12:40 Brass Band Performance
11:30 Crepe and Juice making event
14:30 Kinako making event
Sunday Feb 6th (FINAL DAY) Farm produce from all over Saga Prefecture!
11:00 - 11:30 JA Saga Group Song Performance!
12:00 - 13:15 Yosakoi Dance Performance
10:00 Miso making event
11:30 - Decorative Cake making event
13:00 - Gardening Event
The Festival runs until Sunday February 6th and opening hours are 9:30 until 16:00.
A free bus service runs from Saga station on Saturday and Sunday.
Please check the website JA Saga Matsuri for more info.