Mr. Sato takes a stroll through the shopping arcade of Asagaya Station in Tokyo for this year’s Tanabata festival and bumps into none other than The Donald himself!
Tanabata is an annual festival in Japan centered around the legend of two celestial lovers separated by the cosmic river of the Milky Way. In most parts of Japan, it is celebrated on or around 7 July, but, like many traditional festivals, that date may vary depending on the location.
One such location is Asagaya in Tokyo where Tanabata is celebrated in August. Although later than most of the country, they make up for it in an amazing display of wire-framed and paper-mache-esque decorations called haribote, which stand out among other such festivals in the country.
Our own Mr. Sato braved the record-breaking heat of 2016’s summer to bring you all the sights this year’s festival has to offer.
▼ Of course, Asagaya also has plenty of traditional fukinagashi streamers to mark the occasion as well.
This wasn’t Mr. Sato’s first time out, but he was surprised at how different all the haribote were from last year. It was as if these pinata-like works were a sort of cultural barometer of what was on the Japanese consciousness at the time.
Last year, Star Wars–themed crafts ruled the walkway from Asagaya Station, but now none were to be seen. It had been replaced by Finding Dory as the inspiration for many a haribote maker.
Other specters of 2016 included Pokémon. Mr. Sato was surprised that with the game having only come out a couple weeks ago, people were able to get these together so quickly.
Then again, they had ample warning, much like those who put together the haribote honoring the 2016 Summer Olympics and hopefully drumming up some good karma for the Games soon to come their way.
Perhaps the highlight of this year’s Asagaya Tanabata Festival was this highly-detailed rendering of US presidential candidate Donald Trump. As far as haribote go it was exquisitely done, but Mr. Sato wasn’t sure what to make of the caption underneath.
As it was written, “THE STRONGEST PI, PIG!” could have been intended to be a stutter like “pi-pig” or perhaps more literally as “Trump is the strongest private investigator, you pig!” However, the flop sweat depicted running down his face seems to suggest artist had intended the former meaning.
By the way, those cards Trump is fanning out like he’s about to smack you in the face is a reference to the fact that “trump” in Japanese means “playing card.”
That was about as political as the festival got, unless you count this gorilla haribote, which could have either been tragically shot-down Harambe or Shabani the most handsome gorilla in Japan…or any of the other thousands of gorillas in existence, as far as anyone can tell.
After looking at all this, Mr. Sato was beginning to think that the Asagaya Station was all just an attention seeking horde of decorations riding on the coattails of a Pokémon candidate and presidential Go.
But then he found Mi-chan and a warm smile grew on his face.
Mr. Sato had seen Mi-chan last year, but then she was just a baby…and a head. But now she was growing into a beautiful young girl with hair and teeth. Her parents are recording her growth through a series of haribote decorations with the title My Daughter Mi-chan.
▼ My Daughter Mi-chan (2015)
Maybe, that was what this festival was all about. It’s a reminder of how much can change in a year. Next year surely some of these larger-than-life characters won’t be around, and other characters will come to take their places. But as long as Mi-chan is growing stronger and changing with the times, she’ll be at the festival.
▼ We’ll leave you with some other notable haribote from the 2016 Asagaya Tanabata Festival