Cheapo Weekend for July 5-6: Tanabata Festivals

Carey Finn

Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival. Pic by Kinya Hanada, used under Creative Commons.
Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival. Pic by Kinya Hanada, used under Creative Commons.

This weekend in Tokyo you’ll be seeing one of Japan’s most romantic (and heart wrenching) festivals being celebrated all over the city. Tanabata actually falls on Monday the 7th, but there will be lots happening on Saturday and Sunday. There’s also another flower fest and a couple of free art exhibitions to look forward to.

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Legend has it that two star-crossed lovers, the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (literally, the stars Vega and Altair), are separated by the Milky Way – only able to meet once a year, on July 7th (and if it rains, they tragically have to wait another year). On this special day, Tanabata, people write wishes on strips of paper and tie them to sprigs and branches of bamboo in the hopes that they’ll be granted. It makes for some colourful photos. The festival, originally imported from China, is popular among young couples.

The best place to experience it is in Hiratsuka, in Kanagawa. It’s a little out of the way for Tokyo-ites, but the Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival is the biggest in the whole of the Kanto region. It’s been going for 63 years. Another good option is the Shitamachi Tanabata Festival on Kappabashi Dori (near Tawaramachi Iriya and Inaricho Stations), which will be running from July 4th-10th. The area is also a great place to go if you’re looking for any cheap kitchenware – they have absolutely everything you can imagine. You could also check out the Tanabata festivities at Meiji Shrine or Zojoji Temple (near Shiba-koen Station), or take the kids to the Cosmo Planetarium in Shibuya. There might even be something on at your local neighbourhood shrine.

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If you’re a fan of morning glory flowers, you might be interested in the Asagao Ichi (Morning Glory Fair) at and around Iriya Kishibojin Temple (near Iriya Station). The place has a long history of cultivating the flowers, and you can see and buy the best from 5am until late from Sunday to Tuesday. There will be around 100 stalls.

Meanwhile, the free David Lynch exhibition is still on – see details in our last Cheapo Weekend, and another free art exhibition is on at Gallery Speak For. Aichi artist Fumika Sato is showing a series of nature-themed works, using mixed media on canvas.

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