During July, there are a widespread number of Tanabata festivals throughout Japan. I had the opportunity to go to latgest one in Hiratsuka with my friend Satoko! The highlights of the festival included eating delicious Takoyaki (and a variety of other traditional festival food), epic people watching, and hanging out with some of Japan’s most famous mascots.
Tanabata (七夕), which means the evening of the seventh day, tells the romantic tale of two lovers and is usually celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month. The tale depicts two characters represented by the stars Vega and Altair who are only allowed to meet each other once a year as long on the condition that the stars are clear. People who have watched anime like Haruhi Suzumiya and Bakemonogatari will be familiar with these theme!
At Tanabata festivals, people wear traditional hakata/ yukata and write wishes on small pieces of colored paper called tanzaku (usually sold for 100 円). These strips of paper are usually hung on bamboo trees or woven structures. Typical wishes I saw were for good health and also for successful careers. At the end of the festival, the decorations are typically floated on a river or in the ocean and burned as an offering (source: Japan-Suite).
The favorite things that I saw were the Oni and Pokemon paper lanterns! This festival is great for people of all ages. Though the crowd was mostly Japanese, I had such a great time immersing myself in the culture. Hiratsuka is a beautiful town because it is close to the see and I felt at peace seeing all of the illuminated hand-crafted wonders. If you love Japanese culture, then this is an event that you cannot pass up.