Fussa Tanabata Festival: Summer Event in Tokyo’s City of Good Fortune
Fussa is a city where good fortune is born. It is about 40 minutes away from Shinjuku by the most rapid, special express train. Combining the kanji “福” that means happiness and “生”, meaning to be born; together they read as “Fussa”. This is a very unique way of reading these characters in combination and even few Japanese would be able to read it properly if they see it for the first time. But Fussa is known to be a good-luck name, so some people buy extra tickets at the Fussa Station and bring them home as souvenirs. Photo: photohito.com
The main event during the summer in Fussa City, Tokyo, is “tanabana matsuri”, held for 4 days, starting on Thursday of the 1st week of August every year.(Tanabata, meaning “Evening of the seventh” is a Japanese festival that celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi). Summer festivals are held in many places across Japan, and highlights of tanabata matsuri are without doubt, their lavish decorations. Many colorful and dynamic decorations line up the main street and they are delightful to the eyes of passersby.
In addition there is a custom from ancient times to make a wish during tanabata, and it would come true. Each decoration actually has a meaning one by one.
Long hanging ornaments that blow in the wind represent threads; they are made to pray for better fabric making or sewing skills.
Decorations made with connected rings express prayers that there will be continued connection between everyone’s dreams.
Orihime & Hikoboshi (Vega & Altair)
It signifies hope for love to last forever.
On the first day of Fussa tanabata matsuri, the “Orihime contest” is held. “Orihime contest” is a large event that marks the opening of the festival, and it is a little different from beauty pageants you see elsewhere. Anyone who is in elementary school or older can enter this contest, single or married, Japanese or non-Japanese. It is a generous contest without age restrictions. If you live in Fussa, it is rather customary to hear your neighbors suggesting you to enter the contest. You can enjoy the contest, while guessing who would win.
There are also other events festivals cannot go without; mikoshi portable shrine, floats, and shishimai lion dance. Another recommended highlight to see is a folk dance parade by as many as 2000 dancers. Volunteers from local stores and businesses dance hard despite the heat. These are the people who normally work in government offices or banks with serious expressions on the face. Imagine how they practiced dancing after day’s work during this season. Please take a look at it to cheer them up.
The festival lasts as long as 4 days, and in the latter half on Saturday and Sunday, nearly 100 vendors would line up. While you enjoy festival decorations and dances, please enjoy a bite. Classic food stalls for Japanese people, such as yakisoba fried noodles and takoyaki octopus balls are there, of course. There are also many food stalls for sweets including crepes and chocolate covered bananas. Please stroll around and find a stall with your favorite food or other stalls that your intuition tells you it must be good.
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Fussa City has an American military base and factories where many foreign people work. So the city has many foreign residents, unlike other cities in the Tokyo suburbs. People in the city are kind and are used to helping customers even when they don’t speak Japanese. We would highly recommend you to visit Fussa, a cosmopolitan city away from the metropolis, and experience Japanese culture to your heart’s content.
*Photos were taken last year and the year before.