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Maebashi Tanabata FestivalーA Chance to Know Real Gunma

Onomatopoeia

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Maebashi Tanabata Festivals is one of the three biggest Tanabata festivals in the Kanto region. The central part of Maebashi city transforms into the colorful festivity space filled with colorful stripes hanging from the bamboo poles. This festival provides you with an excellent opportunity to discover old Japanese legend of the milky way, absorb the city’s traditions, and make a wish in a Japanese style!

What is Tanabata?

Tanabata (七夕), is known as Star Festival, is a traditional Japanese event that celebrates the meeting of two deities symbolized by the stars Vega – the Star of Weaving Girl, and Altair – the Star of Cowherd. This event initially originated from a Chinese traditional festival. The festival is based on a Chinese romantic legend of the two stars who love each other. According to the general story, the two stars fell in love at first sight and were banished from each other because of their impossible love. Once a year, however, they were allowed to meet, and a flock of magpies (カササギ) would form a bridge by spreading their feathers to help the two to reunite over the Silver Way (symbolizing the Milky Way) on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, which falls on August 17th on the Gregorian calendar. (That’s why I think Tanabata in Japan should be celebrated around mid-August. July 7th on the Gregorian calendar is in the middle of the rainy season in Japan, and the Magpies can’t soar up to the Milky Way!)

Is the Legend Really a Romantic Story?

I suppose the Tanabata Festival is basically a love story. But why do you think those two had to be separated from each other? Due to the long-standing feud between the families, the two lovers were born from (like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet)? No. The following story is the truth of the matter.

Orihime(織姫: Weaving Princess) wove beautiful clothes by the Milky Way. Orihime worked very hard weaving the clothes for her father – Tentei (天帝: Sky King), and gradually she became sad and desperate at finding love. Tentei was also sad, so he arranged for his daughter a meeting with Kengyu (牽牛: Cowherder), who lived on the other side of the Milky Way. The two fell in love at first sight and married soon, which was totally fine, but then, their love was so deep that Orihime and Kengyu both stopped what they should have been doingーweaving clothes and tending cows respectively. Tentei was angry and separated Orihime from Kengyu. In short, it was blind love that made the two lovers lazy.

Later, Tentei allowed the couple to meet again out of sympathy only once a year after they returned to their work. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for them. Tanabata Festival is based on a didactic story rather than on a romantic one.

Festival Breakdown

Maebashi Tanabata Festival – One of the Three Great Tanabata Festivals in Kanto Region

Tanabata festivals, large or small, take place in many areas in summer in Japan. In Maebashi – the capital city of Gunma Prefecture, streets in the downtown area are decorated with more than 650 bamboo streamers which have dahlia-shaped paper balls on top and other colorful ornaments, which adds up to the festivity.

Maebashi Tanabata Festival, which started in 1951, is one of the three major Tanabata Festivals in Kanto Region, along with Hiratsuka in Kanagawa Prefecture and Asagaya, Suginami Ward, in Tokyo. There are many kinds of events that please visitors such as inter-area Tanabata decoration competition, special summer programs, kimono and so on. I recommend you wear “yukata” – summer light kimono to the festival, which can give you some favorable treatments at the shops you visit as they may provide special offers for those who came in yukata.

Tanabata Festival Food

More than 400 food stalls at the festival sell a lot of snacks and provide carnival games along with some merchandise booths dealing with local specialties. Especially, the four shopping streets in the area on the west side of Chuo Maebashi Station of the Jomo Line (上毛線), Chuo Street (中央通り), Ginza Street (銀座通り), Chiyoda Street (千代田通り) and Tachikawa Street (立川通り), are bustling with street vendors dealing and talking to visitors. Some shops sell with local snacks most Gunma residents are familiar with and few from outside. Yaki-Manju (焼きまんじゅう) – roasted sweet buns pierced with a skewer and slathered with rich and sweet miso sauce, is one of the treats you should try. The size of a bun is pretty big compare with a standard bite-size one, so the tip of your nose can surely be smeared with the sauce. You need to be prepared before you eat. You don’t need to worry about bad weather because the decorations and events are under the roof.

The festival is held for four days starting on Thursday three days after the first Monday of July.

Details and Access

Dates: For four days starting on the Thursday three days after the first Monday of July (Food stalls open on the second day of the festival.)
Time: 10:00-21:30
Place: shopping streets on the west side of Chuo Maebashi Station
Reference: Tanabata Matsuri Maebashi Steering Committee (Phone: 027-234-5109)
Webpage (Japanese only): http://www.maebashi-cvb.com/event/index.htm

Access(railroad)

For the festival site

10 minutes’ walk from Maebashi Station on the JR Joetsu Line
A few minutes from Chuo Maebashi Station on the Jomo Line

Access(car)

For Maebashi

10 minutes’ drive from Maebashi IC on the Kanetsu Expressway

Heavy traffic congestion is expected due to inaccessibility to the limited area, so visitors are strongly encouraged to use public transportation for smooth traffic flow.

Closing Remarks

Sadly, Gunma Prefecture is low-ranked in the list of the attractiveness of all Japanese prefectures. However, a Gunma-born cartoon artist – Hirotoshi Ida used its unpopularity to make the place popular. In 2013, he released a self-deprecating manga – Omae-wa-mada-GUNMA-wo-shiranai(お前はまだグンマを知らない: You Don’t Know GUNMA yet). If you want to know about what kind of place Gunma Prefecture is, how about reading the comic series?

Discover Tokyo’s Festivals Every Month

If you look at Tokyo from another angle, you will figure out that this is a city of festivals. Each part of the town has a local community with its traditions. And for Japanese people, it is essential to keep a sense of their community. Thus, you can see plenty of festivals almost every week in different parts of Tokyo. The following article will provide you with the best Tokyo festivals each month of the year!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5852/

Don`t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

Image courtesy of Tomomarusan

The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5504/

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5363/

Onomatopoeia

Have two kids. Teach English at an “eikaiwa” school more than a decade Love cake.

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