10 July 2012

Noriko-san's Tanabata Party

It's officially summer here in Nagoya, which means that the notorious heat and humidity have settled in, but it also means that festival season has begun. While I'm having trouble adjusting to the 85% humidity, I am adapting rather well to a culture that puts the words "festival" and "season" together. Good form, Japan. I knew I liked you.

We kicked it off this weekend with a Tanabata party at my sensei Noriko-san's house. Noriko-san is a teacher of mine and probably is one of the nicest women I've met. Every other week, she invites a bunch of gaijin women into her house to learn how to hand sew yukatas, which are light cotton summer kimonos. Norkio-san used to be a professional kimono maker, sewing for dancers and geisha who always needed last minute adjustments. She'll tell stories of her and her mother sewing throughout the night for geisha who needed their kimono the next day. 

I know, I know. You all want to come to Noriko-san's house too, and I don't blame you. It's rather fun. 

I've started hand sewing a yukata. As I've never sewed anything before in my life, it's a little slow and, well... let's just say the stitching isn't going to win any awards. It looks like a distracted 5 year old did it. I couldn't be more proud. 

Noriko-san's favorite holiday is Tanabata, so her and her husband Daiichiro host a party where all her students can wear their yukatas. Since mine is far from done, I ran down to Osu Kannon, a funky shopping district just next to my neighborhood, and bought Amos and I yukatas to wear. (We're a bit of cheaters, but that's okay.)

Amos and I with my prize for winning the memory game.

Tanabata is a festival of the stars, and it celebrates the meeting of two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who are represented by the Vega and Altair stars. Legend has it that the Milky Way separates the two, and only on the seventh day of the seventh month are the lovers allowed to meet. On that day, July 7th, the Tanabata festival is celebrated.

We wrote wishes on pieces of paper and placed them on bamboo trees, which were also decorated with origami and paper lanterns. We played memory games with seashells and sung the song Sasa no ha sara-sara. We ate and drank more then was good for us, including some wine that had a dead snake in the bottom of the bottle. I don't really know what that was about.

Sasa no ha sara-sara
Nokiba ni yureru
Ohoshi-sama kira-kira
Kingin sunago
Goshiki no tanzaku
watashi ga kaita
Ohoshi-sama kirakira
sora kara miteiru 
The bamboo leaves rustle,
shaking away in the eaves.
The stars twinkle
on the gold and silver grains of sand.
The five-colour paper strips
I have already written.
The stars twinkle,
they watch us from heaven.

It was such a fun treat to have Noriko and Diichiro pull out all the stops and host such a great get-together. One of my favorite nights so far in Japan, to be sure.  

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