Chinese Students Delight in Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival!

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Date & Time: Sunday, July 9, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Spots: Citywide Area Centered Around JR Hiratsuka Station North Exit Shopping Street
Visitors: 50 foreign students studying at Universities in Kanagawa Prefecture
Attendants: 16 KSGG members
Report by Hiroshi, Shigeru

The Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata*1 Festival is a fantastic event held every year in July, captivating international students and trainees from around the world. This year, we divided approximately 50 participants into 16 groups for a guided tour. Among them were four students from China who were studying at universities in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Ms. T, Ms. L, and Ms. Q came to Japan last year, and Ms. X has stayed in Japan for three years. All of them were lively and enthusiastic, and proficient in the Japanese language. Before experiencing the Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival, we experienced Japanese culture. In the International Cultural Salon (ICES) held in Old Yokohama Rubber Hiratsuka Manufacturing Memorial Hall, the Yawata-yama Western-style building, we had the opportunity to engage in various hands-on activities. They tried Origami and Ms. Q, who is good at crafting Origami cranes, showed a special passion for washi paper. She was so happy to receive much washi paper. They all participated in the day’s workshop and made a souvenir. They crafted small kimono with Origami and pasted it on washi paper. After this cultural experience, I asked them what they liked most. Ms. L said she loved Kendama or cup and ball, Ms. T and Ms. Q enjoyed Ayatori (cat’s cradle), and Ms. X was captivated by Hasami Shogi (Scissor shogi) *2.

After enjoying Japanese culture, we head for Mitsukedai Park to enjoy the Tanabata decorations along Shonan Star Mall Street. Although they knew that Tanabata has its origin in Chinese legends, experiencing the Japanese Tanabata Festival for the first time filled them with joy. They marveled at the beauty of the event, especially after hearing about
the festival’s history and its growth in Hiratsuka: It started in 1951 to wish for the
reconstruction of the town after World War II. being modeled on the famous Tanabata Festival in Sendai; today the festival has grown into a major event in Hiratsuka that attracts over a million people. They were impressed to know that still now various groups are involved in this festival, creating unique hand-made Tanabata decorations.

We had planned to buy lunch from food stalls, but there were long queues everywhere on the street. In the end, we stood in a line with relatively fewer people and got to eat a “Jagabutter” (potato with butter) standing up. This, too, became a memorable experience.

On our way back, we admired Tanabata decorations themed NHK historical drama along Benitani Pearl Road. They shouted for joy to see the decorations of popular characters and took photos of them. Although we arrived at Hiratsuka Station, the visitors said, “We want to see the decorations to our hearts content once more because we had a very good time.” Then they came back to the crowded streets again by themselves.

Other visitors : “We enjoyed ourselves to have had opportunities to experience putting on yukata or cotton kimono for summer, making Origami, and learning Japanese calligraphy. We want to participated this kind of event if we have a chance.”

*1 Tanabata (Star Festival) is held on July 7th every year It is based on the Chinese folk legend, It is a love story for the Cowherd star and the Weaver star, who live in the opposite sides of the Milky Way, and they are allowed to meet only once a year. The moment would take place on the night of July 7th in the lunisolar calendar.
*2 Scissor shogi is a board game which you move your pieces to surround your opponent’s
pieces from both sides.