Sunday, 7 July 2013

Tanabata Festival and Natsu Matsuri

Today is Tanabata, which is a traditional Japanese star festival celebrated all over Japan. I remember celebrating this day with my family as a kid and how much I enjoyed it. It was always filled with good food and good laughs. Tanabata is based on a legend about two lovers that were separated by the Milky Way and were only allowed to meet once a year on the seventh of July. Another thing I love about Japan is the tradition and the festivals they have, because they're usually fun and entertaining. Yesterday my great-aunt took me to Hiratsuka, which is about an hour and a half from where I live to go see the Tanabata decorations that are set up in a long street. This festival in Hiratsuka goes for three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and it was filled with lots of stalls selling food and balloons. There were so many people yesterday! The trains were packed, like super super vacuumed packed with people all trying to go to this festival. All the people also made the day hotter than it actually was. However the heat did get to me and made me feel sluggish, I just wanted to fall in to a cold bath or something. I feel like that today too.

Along these various streets, all these colorful decorations were hung up, the colored strips were especially pretty because of the wind. There were so many people taking photos of them as we maneuvered down the streets. The decorations also made a rustling noise when the wind blew which I found was nice. Even though there was a lot of food stalls, selling things like bubble tea, beer, sausages and other things we didn't eat much because the queue for food was pretty long. One thing we did buy was kakigori, which is basically a snow cone with flavored syrup on top. It was the perfect thing to cool us down.  I chose the mango flavor and it was so nice and refreshing, I wanted more after I finished it. You can get other flavors such as Cola, melon, lemon, strawberry etc. A common snack at Japanese festivals in summer is cucumber on a stick, which I found was strange, but to come to think about it, cucumbers are refreshing. You can get various flavors as well, like kimchi. Korean food in Japan is really popular, there were  Korean food stalls along the streets selling meat and kimchi and a lot of the food stalls were selling deep fried food. On Friday night, Waseda had a natsu matsuri which is basically a summer festival where you hang out with friends, eat food and watch performances. One thing I noticed about selling food in Japan is that the money and food don't come in contact with each other, they stay far, far away from each other. Japan is all about hygiene, there's free hand sanitizer in about every shopping center, everything is automated so that you don't have to touch a button when you go to the toilet. At the natsu matsuri, you had to buy food tickets before you entered the main building where everything was. It's basically buying a food coupon, you buy some tickets and when you want to have some food you tear out how much you owe, this way money doesn't come in contact with people's hands while they eat or make food. I bought a teriyaki chicken kebab, a chocolate caramel churros and a milk tea bubble tea. We ate, played bingo, watched a basketball mixed with dance performance, played a ping pong game and walked around. The trains and train stations are still pretty busy around 8:00pm, which isn't surprising.