Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy Tanabata!

Warning, lots of pictures below and even more in Day 1 and Day 2 of my Shutterfly albums!

July 7th is
Tanabata (七夕) in Japan, a day for making wishes and hanging them on bamboo trees. Tanabata, also known as Star Festival, is based on a Chinese legend about a couple separated by the Milky Way. A long time ago, Ten-kou, the god of the sky had a daughter called Orihime who spent her time weaving cloth for the gods. Ten-kou was worried because his daughter did nothing but work every day so he introduced her to Hikoboshi Kengyu, who spent all his time taking care of cows. When they met, they fell in love and soon spent all their time together. As a result, all the cows became sick and when the gods’ clothing wore out, there was no new cloth to make more. This made Ten-kou very angry so he took Orihime away to the other side of the river Amanogawa (the Milky Way) and wouldn’t allow the lovers to meet anymore. This made them so sad that they were unable to work. Eventually, Ten-kou felt so sorry for them that he decided to allow them to meet once a year on July 7th as long as they worked hard the rest of the year.

Traditionally people hoped that the sky would be clear on that day so that the lovers could meet over the Milky Way. If it rained, the water level of the Amanogawa River would rise and they would be unable to cross. Originally people made this wish by writing it on a piece of paper and hanging it on a bamboo tree. Nowadays, people write their own wishes instead. Though adults sometimes participate, these days it is largely an activity for children.
Tanabata decorations are all over the place here. Bamboo stalks have colorful strips of paper hung on them; set up at supermarkets, community centers, city offices, train stations and schools. And usually there's a box filled with blank sheets of colored paper (tanzaku), and some pens or pencils which have been placed somewhere nearby. These are there so that anyone so inclined can write down their wish (or poem) and then tie it onto the tree. These days, it is mostly little kids who enjoy doing this, but you will still see plenty of hopeful teenagers and adults writing their prayers for family health, success in exams, protection from earthquakes, finding romance, etc. Yesterday Star and I wrote one and hung it up with the others. It cost ¥100 (about $1). A man sitting behind a table had the paper, and was wearing a sash from The Lions Club. So come to find out, The Lions Club exists here too! But anyway, it must have been a fund raiser for them. There were tables like this set up all over the place, and we took advantage of the first one we saw.
Apparently there are Tanabata festivals all over, and the one we went to was held in Hiratsuka. We walked around a lot, and since it was a lot less crowded yesterday than on Sunday, we were able to participate in more of the activities. The pictures pretty much speak for themselves, but I wanted to share a few details. The girls were "fishing" and the idea is to get the object into the silver bowl using the paddle. Only the paddle has paper on the inside, so it rips easily when you put the thing on there to try to lift it into the bowl.
Then we found a booth with what looked like rice paper. You paint a reddish liquid on there, then the girl sprinkles the crystals on...I think the girls enjoyed this the most! Star won a turtle, and she had to scoop it up out of the water. But when the cup got wet it would tear, so same idea as the "fishing" game. She got a turtle though, and the girls loved watching it! The girls stuck their heads in a cut-out and we took their picture in there, and a nice older man carried Keanna over there and then held Sydney up high enough for her to fit. He said something in Japanese which I'm assuming was asking permission to bring them over there...pretty neat, and the girls loved him!
They had so much food, fish on a stick...the whole fish including the eyes, squid on a stick (very yummy!) and baked potatoes topped off with mayonnaise and corn! They put mayo on like we do with sour cream. Fried raw spaghetti with salt and sugar on it (the girls loved it), 3-d Hello Kitty pancakes, 3-d fish filled with chocolate and different kinds of jam (I think...one of them was kind of pasty, and it's not like I could read the label).

We walked to the outskirts of the festival and found a shrine...Hiratsuka Shrine to be exact. We walked around in there, snapped a few pictures and went back to the Tanabata festival. We walked the few blocks to the train station and headed home...oh, and the highlight of the day was seeing a guy in a t-shirt that said "I [heart] Crap." Just like we have the I [heart] N.Y. shirts. I doubt he knew or understood what it said, so I'm going to consider that Engrish. And I also found Mixed Berry and Cherry Kit Kats too! On the last train home (we had to make two tranfers) we were in the front car, and Keanna sat in front of the window looking in on the conductor. She was in heaven watching him drive the train back to our station...the smile didn't come off her face, and all she talked about last night was watching him drive! She even said "Arigato" to him as were getting off.

There's so much more to add, but I'm sure you'd rather look at the pictures instead.
I've got to make a list of Kit Kat flavors available and keep track of what I have. Maybe that'll be my next blog post.
Happy Tanabata. May your wishes come true!


WeidnerWorld said...

Yay pictures!!! I'm glad you guys had such a good time... twice!

newsjunkie said...

Wow, those Kit Kats made such an impression you had to mention them twice, huh? ;)

Sounds like fun, I'm glad you were able to go back.

Katie said...

Oh Sandy...You never cease to amaze me, and vice versa....haha, yeah, sure! I edited the post, so it should only be mentioned once now. Hmm, maybe I should email you before I post and you could proof for me?!

Andrew-Josiah said...

check out my new picture! I thought you might like it!