Celebrate one of the biggest Tanabata Festivals in Tokyo in the artsy Asagaya neighborhood of Suginami Ward in early August with a stroll down the covered Pearl Center shopping arcade.
Tanabata, imported from China to Japan centuries ago, is based on an astronomical event. The stars Vega and Altair meet in the night sky on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. The stars are associated with Orihime, the Weaver Girl, and Hikoboshi, the cowherd boy. These two lovers only meet once a year in the height of summer.
Every year in early August, the Pearl Center shopping arcade celebrates this romantic meeting with this huge and popular display. Since the 1950s, the Asagaya business association with the cooperation of local people has hosted this event. Besides the traditional kusudama – round ornaments with long trailing paper streamers – the local people express their creativity and enthusiasm for popular culture with paper sculptures depicting movie and animation characters. Under the swaying decorations, you can snack on street food and pick up souvenirs.
You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big city centers and tourist destinations. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too.