Friday, July 4, 2014

The Shonan-Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival!

Tanabata is celebrated on July 7th (August 7th in some places) throughout Japan.  Tanabata celebrates a story adopted from China about 2,000 years ago, "The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd".  According to the story, Orihime (the star, Vega), the daughter of the Heaven God, would weave beautiful cloths for her father.  Afraid she was working too hard, Orihime's father decided to introduce her to Hikoboshi (the star, Altair), who was a cow herder.  They fell in love immediately.  They were so infatuated with each other that they forgot their duties.  Cows ran off or became sick, and there was no more beautiful woven cloths.  This angered the Heaven God, who decided to separate the two with the great river in Heaven, the Milky Way.  Desperately sad, Orihime cried uncontrollably.  The Heaven god decided he would give her some peace and allowed the two lovers to meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month, but only if there was no rain.  Because, if there was rain, the Milky Way would flood and the two could not cross it to see each other.  

This year Hiratsuka is celebrating Tanabata between July 4th and July 6th.  So, the hubs, kids and I packed bags and trekked out in this dreary weather to check out the festivities.   We hit the road at 0930, after a quick return to the apartment to get the forgotten sunglasses.  We decided to drive to the main gate and park then walk to Yokosuka Station.  The sky threatened to rain on us all day, luckily, it held its moisture all day.  We made the 1010 train, through Zushi and Ofuna, and arrived at Hiratsuka Station at 1102, around 580 Yen.  We walked out of the North Entrance, walked one block and then took a left down Beniya-Pearl Road.  

According to the pamphlet we got at Machikado Square, this is the 64th Tanabata Festival for this city, where almost 2 million people will walk the streets during the three day celebration to look at over 50,000 decorations.  The decorations were all very colorful and covered everything from Disney characters to soccer stars to anime characters.  There were food vendors on both sides of the streets from one end of the festival to the other.
Even the Colonel
dressed in Samurai
Blue for the festivities
 We walked the full length of Beniya-Pearl Road, then took a right and walked two blocks to the Shonan Star Mall street.  The Shonan Star Mall street is the main road for decorations.

Apparently, people and businesses create the beautiful decorations around the town and then people can vote on their favorite.  I'm not sure if the winner actually gets something or not.

The picture on the left is of what I think is a bird.  It is tied to one of the poles in the picture above. It looks like it is made of a milk carton.  There is one in the group that is made with those popcorn holders you get at the movies.

So, after walking for about forty five minutes, we stopped and bought the kids slushies.  Both strawberry, because that's the only flavor we could understand when it was said.  :)

Above is a shot down the main street.  The decorations are tied to bamboo poles that are then tied to rails, poles, and buildings along the street.  We were lucky to have a slightly windy day, not only to help alleviate the heavy humidity, but also to make the streamers swoosh magically as we walked underneath.

We love Hiratsuka!
There was all kinds of food for sale.  Tons of meats on sticks, bananas on sticks, pineapple on sticks, zucchini on sticks...whatever you can think of....on a stick.

What would a Japanese festival be without characters running around and taking pictures with screaming kids?  There were also many, many people, especially cute little girls, dressed in yukata.

Out of all the food offered, we decided on fried spaghetti sticks.  They were good, but not as good as the sticks we can get at a restaurant in Yokosuka.  Note:  we brought lunch with us, turkey and cheese sammies, because we are going out tonight to celebrate our anniversary.

We made it back to Hiratsuka Station and caught the 1250 train, back through Ofuna and Zushi, to Yokosuka.  On our walk home we took a stroll through Verny Park to check out the pretty roses.  We made it home around 1430...and, we didn't get rained on!

This was not one of the more exciting excursions we've made over the last year and a half, but it was neat to look at all the streamers, and to just get off base for a bit this weekend.

Map:  Our route:  from North Exit of Hiratsuka Stn to Beniya-Pearl Road, where we took a left.  Walked to Machikado Square so the kids could sit and eat/drink slushies, then back to Beniya-Pearl Road all the way to the main road (the bold road running up and down-farthest to the left).  We then walked to Shonan Star Mall road and walked all the way to the MN Building, where we made a right and headed back to the station.

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