Sunday, August 10, 2008

Asagaya Tanabata Festival 2009

Lanterns by Asagaya JR (Japan Railway) station announcing the festival and the dates it will run (August 6 - 10).

Every summer during the Asagaya tanabata festival, my students ask me if I attend the festival. Every summer since I've started private teaching (about 2.5 years back now), the answer has been "no". If you've perused my Picasa album for last years festival and you look at my album for this year's festival, you'll be clued in to why that is the case. While the decorations change every year as merchants make new wire frame figures, the basic food, souvenir, entertainment, etc. options are pretty much the same.

Wishes written on colorful paper strips for the festival.

Also, honestly, I believe the Asagaya festival is mainly for kids. I asked one of my students if she had any interest in these sorts of festivals and she said that she did when she was a child, but hasn't attended one since becoming an adult. That is not to say that there is nothing of interest for adults nor that it's not an interesting thing to do simply to walk around and look at the overwhelming display of decorations, but there is a trade-off to be had between the novelty and the discomfort. The day these pictures were taken, it was 95 degrees F./35 degrees C. and humid. The street is also very crowded, sometimes to the point of having to literally push past people to squeeze by. I think that, after many years of festivals and at 44 years of age, I'll choose the cool, calm, and unfettered comfort of my apartment over the interesting aspects of the festival.

"You wanna get high?" This is the oddest figure from the festival. South Park isn't even all that popular in Japan and Towelie seems a strange character to choose.

Fortunately for me (and any interested readers), my husband is less troubled by the heat and crowds and he took pictures this year. I have set up a Picasa public album with a full gallery of all of the 127 shots he took. The album has been added to the sidebar, but you can also find it just by clicking here. If anyone has any questions about the pictures, please feel free to ask them in the comments section for this post.

Apparently, you can make anyone look like Jack Sparrow with enough make-up, the proper wig and the right clothes.

It struck me this year more than most that the festival is an interesting meeting of the old and the new. There is a lot of pop cultural referencing in the decorations, but also a lot of traditional Japanese food, dress, and customary behavior. I guess part of the reason for that was how many relatively newish, Western cultural figures seemed to be a part of the festival.

This little boy has such a sweet look on his face. I can't help but feel kind of sad thinking that there's a good chance he'll grow up to be some poor, over-worked salaryman.

The day these pictures were taken was the opening day for the Olympics, so you'll see some shots in the Picasa gallery of people standing around watching television. I believe that one of the panda wire frame figures was also related to the Olympics in China.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.


There is also a small set of photos taken at the same time in a new album which my husband snapped around Shinjuku. These photos have no particular theme, but are just evening life in Tokyo as usual and some station shots. That album has also been added to the listing on the sidebar, but you can also access it here.


Wally Wood said...

Dear Orchid, Thank your husband for taking all the Tanabata pictures (and the subway pictures, and the Shinjuki pictures, and ...). For those of us who do not have easy access to Tanabata, it was great to see all the sights. I can't tell you how hard it is to find takoyaki or dango on a stick here in rural Connecticut.

Orchid64 said...

Thanks for your kind words, Wally. :-)