Important Importables: Japanese summer festivals

August 7, 2010 - 2:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports: Japanese summer festivals

Section: Exclusives, Originals, Features, Columns, Japanese Imports, Game-Companies, Developers, Publishers, Genres, Online, Role-Playing, Sim

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Summer in Japan is filled with festivals. Of course, if you’ve watched Japanese dramas or anime, read manga or even played video games, you’d probably already know that. You may have even encountered some of these festivals in the US, depending on where you live.

So since we’re sort of right in the middle of the Japanese festival time, this week’s Hot Japanese Imports is all about the three kinds of festival you may encounter around this time if you’re in Japan or even certain areas of the US. Read on to learn all about the Tanabata Festival, Bon Festival and general Natsu Festival.

Persona 4 Summer Festival

Tanabata Festival

The Tanabata Festival is usually held on July 7, but sometimes on August 7. It is a star festival based on a folk tale about two lovers named Orihime, represented by the Vega star, and Hikoboshi, represented by the Altair Star, which are separated by the Milky Way for all year except for the seventh day of the seventh month.

Like many Japanese festivals, the Tanabata Festival is a chance for people to dress up in yukata, watch parades, attend carnivals, visit booths with food, items and games and watch fireworks. The main thing that sets Tanabata apart is that people write their wishes on strips of paper and hang them on bamboo, in the hopes their wishes will come true after the bamboo is set off on the water or burned the next day. Many people go all out with creating their tags, decorating them or making their wishes into poems.

If you own a copy of Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side: 3rd Story (DS) and you played your game on July 7, 2010, you’d see a Tanabata Festival reference. On the main menu, there was a little icon with bamboo and strips of paper attached to it. There wasn’t any special in-game event, but it was cute.

The Japanese social networking site and game Poupee Girl usually celebrates the Tanabata Festival as well. This year, players could purchase wish tags and a piece of hand-held bamboo with tags for their avatar to hold.

Also, Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii) had Tanabata DLC in Japan, which you can easily get and have in your copy as well. It was a home decoration object that looked like bamboo stalks with multicolor wish tags attached. If you walked your character over to it and examined it, you could read what the tags said.

Bon Festival

The Bon Festival is another Japanese summer festival, and typically is held in July or August on the 15th. It depends on which Bon Festival you’re talking about. The Kyu Bon could end up being held in July or August, depending on the year, while the Shichigatsu (July) Bon is always held on July 15 and the Hachigatsu (August) Bon is always held on August 15.

The Bon Festival is all about honoring the departed. People get together with family, visit the gravesites of their departed loved ones, attend a carnival, participate or watch the Bon Odori (dance) and light and watch the Toro Nagashi lanterns. Many people who attend also wear yukata.

The Bon Festival is also one of the few Japanese festivals you’ll see held outside of Japan. People in the United States, Malaysia, Brazil and Canada will hold Bon Festivals. If you live in the Chicago area, Mitsuwa Plaza in Arlington Heights holds an annual Bon Festival in the store’s parking lot, complete with Bon Odori, music and festival food booths.

Persona 3 Summer Festival

Natsu Matsuri

Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festival) is a term applied to many general summer festivals held between the beginning of July or beginning of August. It could be tied to some kind of local festival, or even a more casual term for one of the two festivals mentioned above. There usually isn’t a strict time for this general festival, and it could even be held in June or late August. Also like the previously mentioned festivals, people may take the opportunity to dress up in yukata.

This sort of festival is very casual. There may be some kind of performances, but it would mostly be about visiting booths that are selling food or festive items like masks, or perhaps have games where people can win prizes. Probably the most famous festival booth game is kingyo-sukui, where people use the little paper paddles to scoop up and catch a pet goldfish. A fireworks display also typically occurs after the day’s activities.

A good example of this sort of festival actually appear in two pretty famous video games. In both Persona 3 and Persona 4 (PS2), there’s a festival during the characters’ summer break that players are able to attend. Also, the Poupee Girl social networking site also has a Natsu Matsuri event in the in-game Katherine Shop, where you can pick up virtual yukata and accessories for your avatar.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports talks about Sanrio.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports reviewed Arabian’s Lost DS.

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Full Story » | Written by Jenni Lada for Gamertell. | Comment on this Article »

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