Tonight we walked out the main gate to the Tanabata Matsuri. Tanabata is:
Tanabata (七夕, meaning “Evening of the seventh”) is a Japanese star festival. It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively). According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar.
The way it is celebrated is with bon odori
dancing, lanterns and paper streamers hung from bamboo arced across the streets, and paper wishes written on colorful paper and tied to bamboo trees.We had gone off-base earlier, but just to go car shopping. This time was much different! The street for several blocks was pedestrian only, and there were many people, both local and from base out to celebrate. We strolled past many stalls with games to win prizes, and food of all kinds. It was hard to decide, but eventually we got some takoyaki (octopus in dough balls, covered in sauce and bonito fish flakes) and a chocolate covered banana for Emmy. I wouldn’t say the takoyaki was my favorite, but the octopus inside was very good.
There was a stage where dances were performed, and at times the dancers came down to dance around the yagura, the red and white striped scaffold in the center of the square. Some people from the crowd who knew the dance joined in. Emmy was so excited that she kept clapping and saying, ‘They’re dancing!”. After their performance, we went down another street that was lined with decorations. The streamers hung down from the lanterns to the ground, and all the kids loved running through them. We ran into the missionaries and said hello, and they gave us a ward roster which was awesome! Hopefully we can get a ride to church on Sunday!
As we began to retrace our steps, we stopped to get some more food – this time some chicken karaage (fried chicken) and yakitori (grilled chicken skewer). They were both oishii! (Yummy!) I managed to drip the yellow-ish yakitori sauce all over my pants as we ate, of course in such a way to appear as if I had an ‘accident’. I took that as a signal to head home, and I carried the backpack strategically to hide the stains as we trekked back. At least it was dark!
In any case, we enjoyed our first Japanese festival very much! I think I had a smile the whole time we were there – everyone was so happy to have an excuse to have a good time, and after the stresses of the move up to now I really needed some fun.
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