The B-1 Grand Prix in Towada is a massive 2-day event featuring the local "soul food" of sixty-two different towns/cities across Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu.(More information about the event at my Towada & Beyond blog.)
Wanting to avoid the predicted crazy hordes of people, my friends and I crafted out a "divide and conquer" strategy that had us split up to cover three different venues to get a total of about 10 different dishes. We started walking to the venue almost an hour before the event was due to start. Even stopping occasionally to take photos and to chat with (former) students, acquaintances, etc. we managed to get in line a good 15-20min before the start of food sales.
It was raining pretty heavily while we were in line, but thankfully it let up by the time things got started at 9:30am. Based on my experience during the 2013 Hokkaido/Tohoku B-1 Grand Prix in Towada where I waited about 2 hours for Kofu Tori Motsuni, I was expecting ridiculously long line-ups. Whether it was due to the rain, or the early hour, or just that I happened to have picked the less popular booths, I don't know what it was, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how short the waits were.
My longest wait (pictured below) was for Komagane Sauce Katsudon. I was waiting in line for about 15-20 minutes until 9:30am, but I only waited about 3-5 minutes from when they started distributing the food.
After the katsudon, I headed to the Tottori Tofu Chikuwa booth. There were maybe 3 or 4 people ahead of me in line, and I probably waited for 1-2 minutes or less. The wait time was just long enough for me to notice the little work of sand art (Tottori is known for having vast sand dunes) seated off to the side.
On my way to the next booth on my list, I stopped to get my picture taken with the Ohotsk Kitami Shio Yakisoba mascot. I had tried the Shio Yakisoba during the previous B-1 event in Towada, so I didn't feel bad about taking a picture with the mascot or even for getting a "Ohotsk Kitami Shio Yakisoba Supporter" sticker stuck onto my t-shirt despite not actually getting any food from them this time around. I liked the mascot and the "personality" of the group so much, I even ended up voting for them (again, this despite not actually getting any shio yakisoba this time round)!
Next on my list was Joushuu Ota Yakisoba. The wait was so short I didn't even think to take out my camera for a photo of the booth!
Less than ten minutes after the start of the event and I was heading for my fourth booth, Minamiuonuma Kirizaidon. They had people dressed up as samurai, so of course I couldn't resist getting my photo taken with them.
My last stop was for Kuji Mamebu Jiru. Since I had tried a mouthful of someone else's bowl last time, plus I had purchased a package of instant (just heat the pack over the stove in a pot of water) mamebu jiru at the grocery store, I hadn't been planning on getting any, but since I had tickets leftover and plenty of time before the others were due to arrive to meet and divy up the food, I went for it. And it was a good thing I did because it ended up being both my favourite food and group! They had a mini sumo dohyo (just big enough for one person) and a guy dressed as a sumo offering "ohimesama dakko" (お姫様抱っこ "princess carry") which was pretty funny and cute! Plus, they had little stations set up within their line where you could try things like sifting through a sandbox for "treasure", etc. to keep you entertained while you waited. Unfortunately I didn't think to take a picture of the little activity booths because there was no line-up and I just went straight for the food. (Of course I voted for them as well!)
A mere 15-20 minutes after the official start of the event, the two of us who were in charge of getting food at the Track & Field Venue had everything and were sitting in the bleachers waiting for the others to arrive.
Out of all the food that we got, only half of it (Kirizaidon, Tofu Chikuwa, Mamebu Jiru) was for me; the rest was for the others in the group. (Clockwise from top left: Minamiuonuma Kirizaidon, Komagane Sauce Katsudon, Joushuu Ota Yakisoba, Tottori Tofu Chikuwa, Kuji Mamebu Jiru, Imabari Yakibuta Tamago-meshi.)
Apart from the three dishes I had picked up for myself, I also had Tsu Gyoza that one of the others had picked up for me from the Baseball Diamond Venue.
I only actually ate the gyoza and mamebu there, though. The rest I transferred into Ziploc containers I had brought with me to take home. The others also packed up at least one or two dishes each to take home. Between four of us we had managed to get about 10 different dishes and finish eating all in about an hour!
After eating we voted for our favourite groups and then wandered around a bit before heading home. So we managed to eat a lot and enjoy the B-1 Grand Prix and still be home by around lunch time. It was great!
Originally I had only planned to go the one day (today), but the experience was so fun and painless (much less crowded and far less waiting than I had expected) that I might actually go back again tomorrow just to people watch and to find out who was voted this year's Gold Grand Prix winner.