Japanese Calendar Holidays & Festivals

Star Festival  (tanabata)  National Celebration


T.T., Jul.92 -- STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT -- Star Festival (tanabata)

The annual Star Festival (Tanabata Matsuri) celebrates an ancient Japanese legend of 2 celestial luminaries who fell romantically in love (... is there any other way?). But Altair, the "boy" star, and Vega, let their love for each other be known which soon angered the King of Stars. Alas, they were then banished to opposite sides of the Heavens, subsequently allowed to meet but once each year.

July 7th is the date of their annual reunion, and this date (7-7) follows the pattern of other children-oriented festivals (on: 3-3, 5-5, & 11-15, respectively).

The Star Festival is celebrated in homes with small children throughout Japan. It is common to put specially-adorned bamboo branches in the garden, each decorated with long folded strips of white and colored paper, often with poems or wishes inscribed within.

Also, a special Tanabata Festival will be held in Hiratsuka, in Kanagawa (about an hour from Tokyo). From July 7th (Tuesday) till Saturday, July 11 th the town will hold several contests-, song and decoration competitions and other fun events especially for kids. To get there, take the JR Tokaido Line south from Tokyo Station. (The Express takes about 1 hour to Hiratsuka Station.) (Paul Abramson)

T.T., Jun.91 -- Come on Baby, Light My Firefly

Each month we try to "illuminate" 1 or 2 local festivals which may both be interesting to attend and shed some light on aspects of Japanese culture for non-Japanese Tokyo residents. This month's glowing review is about a heretofore obscure local festival which should give you an "enlightening" evening sometime early this summer.

The Firefly Festival will alight nightly from June 7th to July l4th this year, in Chinzan-so Garden, near Waseda, NE of Shinjuku. Literally millions of fireflies are brought in from the countryside and set loose in this 16 acre private garden for guests to observe and enjoy. In the mid-evening many visitors stroll through the landscaped grounds and then watch as the fireflies begin to appear throughout the gardens. Children especially enjoy the festivities as it is okay for them to try to catch and hold the winged nocturnal beetles. (But be advised that using a net or similar is only for the uncouth and for girly-men. You should use your hands, bringing perhaps a small jar.) For those who would like to "catch" a firefly the easy way, just bring along a little money to purchase one in a small cage.

The Chinzan-so Garden Restaurants (Japanese and French cuisines) lie amid the gardens and host many a wedding and other special occasions. For lunch or dinner reservations or more information call: 03-3943-1111.

Now then, scientifically speaking: Ahem - these members of the Lampyridae beetles insectus family are able to discharge an intermittent biochemical reaction in their posterior rumpostus which radiates brief incandescent emissions conducive to nocturnal courtship purposes. It seems that the chemical oxidation of Lucifern produces a visual display which, when accompanied by intense physical movement, in the form of flying around, say, in a garden in the evening, helps the afore named winged insect (commonly known as the firefly) to get lucky later that night.

Consequently, based on such a scientific premise it would seem logical to research the development of a form of similarly predisposed lingerie, which could intermittently glow in the posterior rumpostus, thus producing successful courtship proceedings - which need not be elaborated further at this time. Suffice it to say that this amateur scientist thinks the development of such innovative underapparel could be a very popular item in Roppongi on Saturday nights....

Chinzan-so can be reached either from Mejiro Station (on the Yamanote Line), then take a taxi heading east, about a 5 minute ride; or get to Edogawabashi Station (on the Yurakucho Line), and go about 6 blocks west-northwest. The Firefly Festival is a popular, informal occasion which we hope you will be able to participate in and enjoy. (by Paul Abramson)

T.T., Jul.92 Fireworks Galore!

In late July and early August, there will be several fireworks demonstrations in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. They will be clustered around the weekend evenings at this time - so watch the daily newspapers for the multiple listings.

The largest single display is also the oldest one in all of Japan. Around the locale of the Sumida River, on Saturday evening, July 25th, the 250-year-old traditional display will boast 20,000(!) well orchestrated rockets (launched from 2 coordinated sites) to a crowd of about I million people! It is a huge spectacle which can be clearly viewed from much of the length of the river and its surrounding environs.

Get your friends, bentos, and beer together, and before it gets dark - say before 8-8:30 PM - on the evening of the 25th (check the daily paper and the weather, make sure nothing's changed), go to one of the following stations: Asakusa Station (Ginza & Toei Asakusa Subway Lines) or JR Ryogoku or Asakusabashi Stations, located just east of Akihabara on the JR Sobu Line. Follow the crowds and look for a good place with an unobstructed view of the skies over the river.

Anywhere in the large Asakusa Temple area (northwest of Asakusa Station) or in Sumida Park, along the Sumida River (east-northeast of Asakusa Station) should be ideal. But bring something to sit on and be flexible, as probably a few hundred thousand other people will be going to the exact same locale for preeminent viewing.

Also, from experience, don't be in a hurry to rush to the station to go back home afterwards. A half-hour or hour local stroll would be much more pleasant than a half-hour crowded wait to get into a packed, hot train! (by Paul Abramson)

The Sumida River Fireworks Display is filled with its "oohs and aahs", during the non-stop spectacle - but remember there are several other displays during this time as well. The Itabashi Display (near the Toda Bridge, on the Arakawa River) and the Hanabi Taikai Display (from Kanamachi Station, Keisei Line) are also well worth viewing- for children of all ages. (by Paul Abramson)

T.T., Aug.92 -- "Oh say can you see ..."

The month of August will include a number of fireworks displays in and around Tokyo. If you miss those back home, one of these occasions may be a good time to get together with a few friends, and enjoy the brilliant overhead display. Three of the bigger ones are listed below; all should begin around dusk:

August 2nd - In the Jingu Dai-Ichi Kyujo Ball Park, at Jingu Gaien (On the Hanzomon Line, northwest of the Aoyama lichome Station; or near Gaien-Mae Station, on the Ginza Line.)

August 3rd - Over the Tamagawa River (five minutes walk from Keio Tamagawa Station, on the Keio Line). Bonus: Floating lighted lanterns will also be set afloat on the river.

August 10th - The fireworks at Harumi Pier should be visible from all around the center of the Port of Tokyo, a good vantage point would be near Hamamatsucho Station (on the JR Yamanote Line). Walk east, towards the waterfront. (PA)


There are yet more summer fireworks displays in Tokyo! Another very large annual display will be on the evening of Saturday August 1, near Shinozaki Park, on the east side of the Edogawa River. This year there will be 15,340 (count'em!) mid-air bursts(!), taking an hour and 15 minutes(!), (bring extra beer). The fireworks display will kick-off the 8-1 to 8-24 (17th annual) "Exciting 92" Fair.

To get to the park, take the TOEI Shinjuku Line (east) to Shinozaki Station. The park is just to the northeast, it runs north from there, following the riverbank. (by Paul Abramson)


Yes, you read that right. On Tuesday August 4, there will be a ceremony and thanks given for chopsticks and food. About 20,000 pairs of used chopsticks will be burned in the outdoor display. The bonfire promises to be an entertaining spectacle for one and all. Arrive before 11:00 am to see the ceremony and feel free to bring some of your own disposable chopsticks to add to the flames. Hie Shrine is about a 5-minute walk from Akasaka-Mitsuke Station (Marunouchi & Ginza Subway Lines). (By Paul Abramson)

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