Monday, July 7, 2014

Tanabata Festival

Hopeful romantics start your engines - Tanabata Festival, also known as the Star Festival, is nigh.
Although  - to confuse things slightly it is celebrated on either July or August 7 depending on where you are in Japan or who you are with.
The extremely abbreviated version of  ONE of the fables behind the festival is that two young lovers not of this earth (let's call them dalliancing deities - in this case represented by stars) were forced apart by father/god, as penance for neglecting their chores due to spending too much time together. Sometime later, feeling sorry for the couple who were desperate to hang out  - the father/god agreed to allow them to meet just once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month. Yes July is the 7th month to us but according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar February is the first month meaning August is the 7th. All clear now?
The streets are lined with long paper streamers representing the notes written to each other across the milky way (or possibly the tails of a shooting star - that's my personal interpretation anyway)  and long strips of fabric or textiles (the chick star apparently had to do a lot of catch up on her weaving to prove herself worthy of re-meeting her star lover) - or is that from another version of the story? Smaller paper notes with messages of love and hope - or wishes for good handwriting or sewing apparently - are tied onto branches. As are paper stars - and twinkling lights - very pretty.
There's yet another rendition of the fable which involves burying some sandals under bamboo or some such thing - hence the green tubes... but now I'm even confusing myself.  No matter what it's a fun, glittery party! And it is free - all you have to do is go for a walk. 

In Kyoto there is an especially lovely gathering along the Kamogawa river (as you will see from these photos). Young women in summer kimono ( Yukata ) wander about hoping to meet the man of their dreams  - although I'm not sure exactly how successful they are with all those stars in their eyes....  boom-tish!
And of course there are couples canoodling in corners, swept up in the romance of it all. And possibly casting smug glances at all the single ladies... all the single ladies 
And if it rains on the 7th it is said that you will have no chance of finding your mate so pack up, go home and wait for next year. How festive....
 And if you do happen to snaffle a new love there are plenty of yuka (restaurant decks constructed only for the summer months) for sharing a drink or meal together.  Could be the start of a beautiful thing?
We didn't do the yuka thing on this occasion  -instead we ate nearby on Kiyamachi dori at Toridori - a place we'd walked by a few times and were keen to try. The split leveled restaurant sported an attractive fit out 
but sadly the food wasn't amazing. And more expensive than it should have been. 
Spring onion salad with crisp yuba above was just ok.
Summer oden below  - with overly fishy dashi jelly and tomatoes - did not float my boat. I did however think it was a great idea. Just not well executed. 
 The grilled chicken bums and veg was ok but nothing to write home about.

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