Shimizu Tanabata Festival
Can’t make it to the Sendai celebration? Do 🎋 early!
Stroll down city streets while colorful paper streamers gently waft in the ocean breeze and the smell of fresh-made takoyaki (octopus fritters) fills the air. If this sounds right up your alley, make a beeline for Tanabata celebrations in Shimizu, Shizuoka.
Shimizu’s Tanabata Festival usually takes place in the first week in July every year. The legend of Orihime the weaver and Hikoboshi the cow herder was first celebrated in the Shizuoka City ward in 1954. Since then, it has transformed from a small local festival to a thriving four-day event that attracts 600,000 people. Today, the festival usually takes place on Ginza Arcade Street and the Shimizu Ginza shopping area.
Schools, businesses, and other community groups all take part in the festival, making colorful nanatsu kazari (paper decorations) which include the popular fukinagashi (paper streamers) to decorate the city streets and shop fronts. They also participate in a bamboo decoration contest for big prizes.
The multi-colored decorations are a definite crowd pleaser, particularly with families with young children. Many portray popular anime and cartoon characters, including the beloved Chibi Maruko Chan who hails from Shimizu.
Be sure to stop by the temporary Tanabata Shrine to write your wish on colorful tanzaku (paper strips) and tie it to a bamboo branch. (Knowing this tradition will also make “that bamboo emoji” 🎋 a deeper meaning now!)
Apart from the decorations, other fun events take place during the festival like night shopping, taiko (drum) performances, and tezutsu hanabi (handheld fireworks) displays.
Tezutsu hanabi has a long history in Japan, where experienced artisans actually hold bamboo tubes filled with powder which explode into brilliant fireworks when lit. There is also the Shimizu Tomoe River Lantern Festival which has been going on for over 250 years. Because Tanabata in Shimizu happens in July right before the Japanese holiday of Obon in August, locals use this time to light and release floating lanterns on the river to honor their ancestors. The sight of lanterns floating silently under the night sky is breathtaking.