Tanabata – the star festival

Today is an important Japanese holiday, Tanabata, or the star festival. There is an ancient Japanese myth about two lovers who who live in the sky. They become separated by the Milky Way and can only meet once per year, on July 7th. There are huge festivals on this day in Sendai and in Hiratsuka, about an hour outside of Tokyo.

Each traveler was with his/her host family today and Ineko offered to take me to the Hiratsuka star festival. It was a treat for the eyes, nose, and taste buds. Actually, it bordered on sensory overload. And, it was 94 degrees out. There were so many, many people including beautiful women dressed in kimonos, street food vendors, cute kids, tourists, and revelers of all kinds. Street food included cucumbers on sticks, octopus, pancakes topped with broiled eggs, fried tuna, candied bananas and apples, red bean desserts, and plenty of beer.

We stopped for lunch at a tiny restaurant where they served only miso soup, tuna sashimi (raw) on rice, and fried, breaded tuna on skewers. We had some of each.

All along the streets were towering poles with displays honoring the holiday. Draped from each pole were thousands and thousands of ribbons each representing the dreams and wishes of one person. Some were silly like the Tokyo Dome display featuring a figurine of a famous Japanese baseball player. Others were serious, including the display offering wishes for the recovery of the region struck by the tsunami.

Tomorrow the group gets back together and we get to visit our sister school, Shinagawa Gakuen. Gakuen means “learning garden.”

I’m running out of battery and I haven’t found the right plug converter yet, so that’s all for now. Pictures follow including one from a hunted house and another from a salon where you might be able to have a drip IV with your manicure.

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