Oktoberfest and the delights of German cultural heritage | WhyNot!?JAPAN

Oktoberfest and the delights of German cultural heritage

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Oktoberfest and the delights of German cultural heritage

By Ben Lindstrom-Ive




photo by http://www.gnavi.co.jp/prt/osaka/oktoberfest/



            Oktoberfest a traditional German festival which originated in the Bavarian province of Germany, located in the far south of the country, has been an ongoing tradition over the course of hundreds of years. During this time of the year in the fall much beer is consumed, along with different foods of traditional Bavarian cuisine such as Sauerkraut, Bratwurst, Black Pudding, and Viener Schnitzel. Traditional Bavarian oompah music is usually performed by band leaders in the beer gardens, which is accompanied by dancing, and the wearing of Lederhosen a traditional Bavarian mountain costume. Oktoberfest is one of the most important festivals not only in Germany, but also in Western Europe. No longer confined exclusively to Germany and Western Europe, Oktoberfest has now become a largely ‘global event’. One of the biggest cultural surprises is that Oktoberfest once an ‘exclusively’ Bavarian and German festivity, has now spread over to Japan, and has become increasingly popular. Similarly to other traditions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, Oktoberfest has now become a well know world wide phenomena thanks to globalization, and an increasing interest in more ‘western’ traditions worldwide. Nonetheless the largest Oktoberfest held today on an annual basis is in Munich (Munchen in Germany) the largest city of the German province of Bavaria. As mentioned earlier, however, it has now become an increasingly popular festivity in Japan.



            It was a warm and dry day in May, with not a single cloud in the sky. In May of every year, the Oktoberfest festival is held in Nagai Park in Osaka. At first when I heard of an Oktoberfest being held in Osaka, I did not have too many expectations. I was thinking to myself, could a German festival be or become believable in a culture just as diametrically opposite or foreign as Japan?  Nonetheless I was curious to go to an Oktoberfest celebration. I had never been to Oktoberfest before, but I had hear about it all of my life. I remembered reading about it in travel magazines such as National Geographic, and remember being impressed by the photographs of the enormous crowds, along with the very colorful beer tents. I knew that it was a special sort of right of passage festival, which would be held as a major celebration commemorating the coming of the Autumn season.  I had also never attended a traditional German festival before. This lack of experience, however, made me want to know and experience more. The major surprise I found myself reckoning with was, why would Oktoberfest be held In Japan in both May and October? I had never heard of a major festival being celebrated twice a year before. This further motivated me to want to discover the unique Japanese take on Oktoberfest.  Nonetheless I was pleasantly surprised to see how wonder Oktoberfest truly is in Osaka. All of my expectations needless to say, were greatly increased by the time I had finished attending the festival.



            The Osaka Oktoberfest is indeed a very special time of the year. Held in Osaka’s lively Nagai Park every May, and located in the Higashisumiyoshi-ku district, this event is nothing short of lively and memorable. Many beer tents were found throughout the grounds of Nagai Park, which created a specifically Bavarian (Southern German) cultural atmosphere. The beer gardens were really beautiful, and each of the beer stands held largely colorful posters of beer advertisements, aided by Bavarian mountain imagery. The variety of food and drink available at the festival was indeed impressive. One could enjoy a good variety of German beers to choose from including Beck’s, Ayingerz Wiezenbock, Kolsch, Brauerie Heller, Bayerischer, amongst others. The food served at the festival was composed primarily of traditional German foods such as Wiener Schnitzel, Blood Sausage, Sauerkraut, Bratwurst, German style pizza, among other tasty culinary delights. The prices of food and drink at Oktoberfest in Osaka were rather high, but reasonable for the overall experience of taking part in this joyous festival.



            Perhaps the highlight of the festival was seeing the Oompah music being performed live. Even though I very much enjoy much popular music from the English speaking world particularly in the U.K. and the U.S, I have always been interested in listening to foreign music as well. Foreign music and foreign songwriting from my perspective, provided a good glimpse into the ways in which a specific culture is able to express itself on a symphonic level. I have very fond memories of seeing Sufi music being performed in Istanbul, along with Belly dance in Cairo, Egypt, and traditional South African Gospel music in Johannesburg. If I looked forward to anything the most with Oktoberfest, it was certainly to experience the music itself. As I had mentioned earlier, I had never been exposed to live German language music before.  The musicians were playing traditional Alphorns traditional Bavarian instruments, along with some traditional German alpine songs. Even though the musicians were Japanese and not of German background or ancestry, it seemed that they were singing these traditional German songs fluently. I was indeed very impressed! This sort of music created a fun and lively atmosphere for everyone. I had a chance to participate in these traditional alpine dances, and the group effort made to coordinate these dances around the tables was nothing short of enjoyable.



            All in all, I felt satisfied about going to Oktoberfest in Osaka. I very much enjoyed the food, beer, and especially the musical performances aided by the dances of the audience members. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how well run the festival was. It was clean, beautiful, very well organized, the selection of food and beer was quite good, and everybody who came to the festival seemed to be having a really good time indeed. It was a rather happy and joyous event to attend, and I plan on coming back to this festival in October. Yes indeed it was a very fine time.



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