Tokyo Diaries – Tanabata

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Star-crossed lovers, indeed.

Summer means many things in Japan – cicadas, sweltering heat, fireworks, yukata – and the Tanabata Festival is one of the most important to the Japanese people.  Imported from China in the 8th Century, this is possibly the most romantic of all the big Japanese festivals – Orihime and Hikoboshi are fated to meet only one day per year, on the seventh day of the seventh month (of the lunisolar calendar actually, but I won’t quibble).  And even then, only if it’s clear.

The most well-known tradition – certainly to anime fans – is probably writing wishes on slips of paper and tying them to a “tree” made of bamboo branches.  The biggest Tanabata matsuri by far is in Sendai, up North in Tohoku (sadly now more well-known as the largest city directly effected by the 3/11 disasters), but Tokyo has a few – among them the Shitamachi Tanabata Festival, in Kappabashi.  This is the neighborhood famous as the mecca of restaurant supply shopping, sandwiched between Ueno and Asakusa.  Their festival is one of the biggest in Tokyo and I visited today in the miserable mushi atsui weather – 35 Celsius (about 97 Fahrenheit).  In spite of that and the occasionally fierce winds a huge crowd turned out for the festivities.

Fittingly for a place called Kappabashi there were cucumbers on a stick, though thankfully given the number of small children present, no mermaids to enjoy them.  The heat was brutal, but strolling through the crowds of musicians and vendors sipping an ice-cold beer still felt pretty great – I only wish I’d worn my yukata.  On any day out with a large group like this, the sheer variety and oddness of Japanese life always presents itself to me in myriad fashion – I never tire of it.  The weather forecast for tomorrow looks pretty good, so hopefully Orihime and Hikiboshi luck-out this year.

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  1. e

    Those look like lucky happy dogs.
    And so much pink!
    'there were cucumbers on a stick, though thankfully given the number of small children present, no mermaids to enjoy them' I see what you did there Sir é3è
    Btw 37° Celsius here. Wooohooo. Your ice-cold beer would feel like the Cerveza Holy Grail now.

  2. Z

    Any preference for a particular beer brand?

  3. e

    If you dig his very early posts you'll find a few beer and wine reviews actually ;D. Dunno if Trappist beer are common and/or affordable in Tokyo though…

  4. Common – surprisingly so – but far from affordable. On a hot day with a matsuri, Japanese mainstream beer – simple, easy to quaff, best ice-cold – is good. Also good with food. But not complex or especially interesting beer (Sapporo is probably the least worst of the big names). I would love to drink more interesting beers – even American like Anchor are available here – but it's just too expensive.

  5. A

    Drats, I knew I missed the summer festival, and to know that you actually went to Kappabashi. If I had stayed on for a few more for days, I could have gone there too. /sadface.

    Could have gotten an opportunity to meet Enzo :)

  6. C

    Unlike most anime bloggers, we know what he looks like :3

  7. B

    Ah I can't believe you were there! You lucky bug, I want to go to Japan as well!!

  8. R

    Staying outside under 35 Celsius…yes, an ice-cold beer is so much needed. In our country we are not allowed to carry any alcoholic drinks outside, except at designated areas or your backyard, so lucky you, it's allowed in Japan.

    I like the little history that you provided, and I have heard of that romantic Chinese folk story — it is a little sad story, so hope that it won't rain tomorrow for Orihime and Hikoboshi to meet.

    Your photos of the bamboo trees made me think of Hataruka, and those strollers for doggies…! I, too, am amazed by the Japanese. They can always think of the tiniest detail and innovate from there. A friend of mine just shared with me a video about the Japanese movers — and I was thinking of you, Enzo. Allow me to share because I was in awe by the level of details and service. There are a bunch of Chinese texts on the page, but video is in English:

    Finally, yes — I would love seeing you in your yukata :).

  9. S

    Sendai is up my way! I was up in Iwate last year, I plan on going back. The Tanabata is an awesome festival, glad you had fun! I love the pics and videos everytime!

  10. i

    I would love to spend a year in Japan, just so I can go through all the matsuris and celebrations once in my lifetime.

    On another note why is it GE that you don't like Genshiken? I thought it would have been right up your alley as its a story about living the Otaku life.

  11. Heh, I just finished my post, will be up later. "Don't like" is too strong, though – more like indifferent.

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