Last weekend was the festival weekend. It was Tanabata Festival ("Star Festival") in Hiratsuka. The festival's not all bad, but there's not terribly a lot to do other than walk around and spend money on overpriced carnival food. The first day there was a good taiko drum demonstration, but beyond that, I never found much worth doing. The big draw is the amount of decorations hung from bamboo poles that dangle over the streets. But by the 4th day, it gets a bit old, as does the food and trash, which really starts to reek about that time. And the organizers wonder why attendance has declined in recent years.
Last year, my friend Ana introduced me to the Gion Festival in Narita, the town where she lived and worked on her first trip to Japan. I got acquainted with a few of her friends, Yumi, and the Kiuchis, a couple that is always welcoming to foreigners. They were nice enough to let me and Julian come along and attend their dinner party that evening. It was quite a time. It was a full-course Japanese meal, replete with sashimi, tempura, and a unaji (grilled eel on rice), not to mention all the beer you can drink.
Some of the other highlights that day were coming across a group of old men with a barrel of sake open and offering drinks to the public, and watching the dashi being pulled around the town all day. There were some crazy hairdos that day as well, though I couldn't get a full on shot of them. My favorite was this particular person.
The next day Julian and I took a stroll through a much-quieted Narita. We hit Narita-san temple for a bit, but the heat and humidity was such that not even the beautiful gardens there could cool us off. So we headed back to Hiratsuka in time to have an early night and recover from the weekend's festivities.
More photos here.