Tanabata the star festival.
Well, Orihime, the weaver and Hikoboshi, the herder weren’t getting ‘any’ this year. But then again the choice to use magpies as a bridge for the two lovers to make their annual union on the 7 of July is just plain ridiculous… Ducks would have been a far better choice with their greater buoyancy and predilection for the wet. Nevertheless all bets are off and wishes unfulfilled. The bamboo trees strung with wishes are a glaring reminder that you just can’t rely on magpies or gods for that matter, when it comes to getting what you want.
Welcome to Tanabata, a magical time of wish fulfillment that was created by an angry dad-god who was fed up with his lazy daughter-god and son-in-law(no not sun)-god and separated the buggers so they could keep theirs hands off each other long enough to either weave up a new frock or make sure the herd(stars all) don’t come hurtling into our solar system and incinerate the earth.
On the seventh day of the seventh month each year these two lovers come together for a bit of sweet love before dad drags them back off to work. The only problem is that to reach each other they have to cross a river. I don’t think dad send his daughter to ‘lil’ tadpole’ swimming classes when she was young (but I mean who would. You know what kids do in the pool at that age.).
With little social skills due to their previous sweatshop existences and no knowledge of the phrase “You can tell a person by the friends they choose”, the couple befriends a flock of magpies.
Magpies, renowned for their perverse and cruel sense of humor, agreed to provide their wings as a bridge across the river so the couple may meet each year when daddy gave them their day off. However, the magpies felt that they should remind the couple that their union provides them with a “work stop” policy in rain for occupational health and safety reasons. Although a little envious of their unionized labor policies, the couple desperately agreed.
Now the magpies aren’t stupid; that’s why they’re lazy. Unbeknownst to the lovers, July is the rainiest month of the year, with most parts of Japan experiencing more rainy days than dry during this month.
It’s no wonder magpies make so much noise in the rain. They are laughing their bloody heads off.
While a smidgen of curiosity is raised over why it is exactly that two trans-galactic beings are affected by rain in Japan; or for that matter, how magpies can make the trip out to that intergalactic river aka Milky Way, may easily be explained by the modern
scientific popular theories of quantum physics.
In homage to this myth, the Japanese of today prepare wishes and affix them to the branches of cut bamboo. If the day proves to be rain free then the wish is granted. If it rains then the wish is a dud, which is fair enough too. I don’t thing I would be in the mood to grant wishes if my only day of sexual bliss each year is a wash out.
In Numazu this festival has its visual peak in the Nakamise and Shin Naka malls on the south side of Numazu station. The malls are strewn with dizzying designs of brilliantly coloured banners all of which are temptingly tasseled at the bottom. Hidden in amongst these overwhelming designs are several meters high cuttings of bamboo with wishes written on coloured paper tied to their branches.
These hearty little banners stay up for over three weeks running through Tanabata. Indeed, the banners bamboo like strength and flexibility is frequently put to the test by clutching airborne children and the late night inebriated.
The crass advertising such as the popular One Piece manga or the rotating, body swapping Pirates of the Carribean banner really highlight the marketing opportunity that many of Japan’s festival have become. While to some this would seem a betrayal of tradition; to others, like me this seems like an opportunity for amusement and well worth a visit.
Banners are usually erected one week before Tanabata. On the seventh of July there is also a large number of organized festivals on in and around the Nakamise.
Location: With your back to the south entrance to the Numazu Station follow the footpath to the right (west) around the new building construction until you get to a pedestrian crossing. Cross it. Look up at the milky green arch reading Nakamise. Look down from the arch and smack yourself in the head for missing all the banners. 😉 .