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Monday, July 28, 2014

Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival

The Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival is one of the three largest and most famous Tanabata festivals in all of Japan. Held in Ichinomiya City in Aichi Prefecture from the last Thursday to Sunday of July, which is July 24 to 27 in 2014 this is one must see festival in the Chubu area of Japan.

Tanabata (七夕) also known as the “Star Festival” is a Japanese festival with its origins in ancient Chinese legend. The festival celebrates the meeting of two stars (lovers) who are only allowed to meet one night of the year, which is Tanabata. It is one of the most romantic nights of the year in Japan.

More about Tanabata 

The festival centers on the 500 meter long Honmachi Shotengai Shopping Arcade near Owari-Ichinomiya Station. The climax of the festival is along the approach to Masumida Shrine.

We arrived late afternoon to Owari-Ichinomiya Station and the festival was already in full swing with the station decorated in beautiful Tanabata streamers called fukinagashi, and crowds of people many in yukata (summer kimono) heading to the festival.

Fukinagashi (Tanabata Streamers) outside of Owari Ichinomiya Station

 Stepping out of the station you’ll notice that the station itself is also decorated with colourful Tanabata streamers, and there are many fukinagashi around the station. The approach to the Honmachi Shopping Arcade is lined with food stalls (yatai) on both sides of the road selling all kinds of delicious Japanese street food. The atmosphere is electric and has a carnival vibe to it with many stalls offering the chance to play a game or two to win a prize.

Street stalls with food and games

The Honmachi Shopping Arcade is decorated in colourful Tanabata streamers on both sides. Some of the decorations contain coloured paper (tanzaku) which are small pieces of paper with wishes on them. These are made by local Elementary School children and stuck on the decoration in hope that the wish will come true.

Colourful Tanabata Streamers at the Honmachi Shopping Arcade

Other decorations feature famous or popular anime (animation) characters in Japan. We saw many different characters ranging from Doraemon to Anpanman.

Shimajiro character Tanabata decoration

The main action is centered at Masumida Shrine which the Honmachi Shopping Arcade leads to from the station. Masumida Shrine was the most important and principal shrine of Owari Province, which is now modern day Aichi Prefecture. The shrine grounds are also decorated in colourful Tanabata streamers with even more food stalls and entertainment. There is a stage set up were you can watch some traditional Japanese dance performances.

Masumida Shrine

When the sun goes down and the evening approaches you can see a parade down the Honmachi Arcade to Masumida Shrine. The parade is conducted to dedicate local products to the shrine for good luck.

Parade on Honmachi Street near Masumida Shrine

Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival

Tanabata Streamers at the Honmachi Shopping Arcade

The approach to Masumida Shrine

The crowds at Masumida Shrine

Beautiful Yukata at Masumida Shrine

More Yukata at Masumida Shrine

Yukata and Japanese Lanterns at Masumida Shrine

Food stalls at Masumida Shrine

Japanese Festival at Masumida Shrine


WHAT: Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival
WHEN: July 24 to 27 2014
TIME: Most of the action happens from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
WHERE: Honmachi Arcade near Owari Ichinomiya Station
ACCESS: From Nagoya take either a JR or Meitetsu train to Ichinomiya

Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chunichi Shimbun Gifu Fireworks

Held on the last Saturday of July, the Chunichi Shimbun Gifu Fireworks is one of the largest and best fireworks displays in all of Japan. Fireworks are a great summer tradition here In Japan with many firework festivals taking place around Japan in July and August. Fireworks are called Hanabi (花火) in Japanese, which literally means fire flower. The fireworks are just that as they beautifully light up the summer night sky.

The Chunichi Shimbun Gifu Fireworks takes place in Gifu City (岐阜) over the famous Nagara River with Mt Kinka and Gifu Castle as a backdrop. The fireworks last around 90 minutes with approx. 30,000 fireworks set off. The best seat in the house is along the river bank where the fireworks are launched.

This is the must see summer event in Gifu along with the Ukai (Cormorant Fishing). Gifu City is packed on the day with people visiting from all over Japan. The atmosphere is electric with huge lines of street vendors selling all kinds of Japanese festival food and people out and about in their beautiful yukata (summer kimono).

Make sure you arrive early to reserve a good spot and bring along your seating mat. I recommend Nagaragawa Park which is at the northern end of the Nagara Bridge.

Here are a few photos from the festival last year

The Nagara River with Mt Kinka and Gifu Castle in the background
The crowds at the Chunichi Shimbun Gifu Fireworks
Festival Food and Beautiful Yukata
Fireworks ~ The star of the night
Fireworks over the Nagara River


WHAT: Chunichi Shimbun Gifu Fireworks
WHEN: Saturday July 26
TIME: 7:15 pm to 8:45 pm
WHERE: Nagara River bank (between the Nagara Bridge and Kinka Bridge)
ACCESS: Special buses run from JR Gifu Station and Meitestu Station

Chunichi Fireworks Festival

Friday, July 18, 2014

How-to: Business Etiquette in Japan

Whether you’ve moved to Tokyo for a new job or your company is expanding overseas, there are a few cultural differences in the workplace you should familiarize yourself with. The Japanese pride themselves on being gracious and building strong relationships, and exchanging gifts is just one of the many ways these ties are built.

The biggest difference in Japanese business etiquette is that it’s a lot more formal than Western cultures. Unless you are working with the imperial family, most Japanese business persons understand the cultural difference and won’t judge you too harshly. That being said, here are a few things you may want to avoid:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

10 Tips to Survive Summer in Japan

Summer in Japan is very hot and sticky with the mercury rising to the mid and high 30C levels with very little relief at night. Popular destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka can get extremely hot during this season. You can escape the heat by heading to places like Nikko, north of Tokyo or the cooler Japan Alps in the heart of Japan. Alternatively you can follow these handy tips below to survive a Japanese Summer.

10 Tips to Survive Summer in Japan

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tanabata Star Festival 2014

Tanabata (七夕), also known as the “Star Festival” takes place every year on the 7th day of the 7th month here in Japan. In Japanese, Tanabata (七夕) means evening of the seventh; (七) = seventh and (夕) = evening. The Japanese festival originates from Chinese legend, and celebrates the meeting of the two stars, Altair and Vega. According to the legend, the Milky Way, a river of stars that crosses the sky, separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only one night a year on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunisolar calendar. It is a fabulous story that was popularized in Japan over 1,300 years ago!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mister Donut Matcha Doughnuts

Popular Japanese doughnut chain, Mister Donut has released a limited edition range of Matcha Green Tea doughnuts. The Matcha doughnuts will be available from May 15 until the end of July, with Mister Donut offering six different styles of Matcha doughnuts to choose from.

The doughnuts include the Pon de Matcha Choco, Krantz Ring Matcha Choco, Nama Choco Matcha Pie, Waff Matcha Choco, and Misdo Bits Matcha Mix.

Here is a little more about each Doughnut:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mos Burger French Cruller with Chorizo Sausage

Popular Japanese burger chain Mos Burger has just released a new doughnut burger that is an interesting creation. Called the French Cruller with Chorizo Sausage, the burger or doughnut is a kind of cross collaboration between Mos Burger and Mister Donut. Mos Burger has used the famous Mister Donut French Cruller Doughnut as inspiration for its doughnut pastry like bun for its latest burger.

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