Fussa Tanabata Festival, one of the most vibrant July festivals in Tokyo, is ready to welcome thousands of attendees, promising a myriad of sights, sounds, and activities to delight all ages.
The 2023 Fussa Tanabata Festival will span two days, from Saturday, July 8 to Sunday, July 9, offering festival-goers a unique blend of traditional and modern festivities.
From the intricate Tanabata decorations that deck the streets to an array of cultural and modern performances, food, and laughter, Fussa Tanabata Festival is indeed a celebration to behold.
About Fussa Tanabata Matsuri
In the heart of summer, when the Milky Way stretches like a luminous bridge across the clear night sky, the people of Fussa, a city nestled in the western outskirts of Tokyo, come together to celebrate a centuries-old tradition: the Tanabata Festival. Steeped in folklore and vibrant with color, the festival is a spectacular showcase of community spirit, a testament to resilience, and a nod to cosmic forces.
The festival traces its origins back to the Sendai Tanabata Festival, known for its stunning Tanabata celebrations, and was born out of the ruins of the Second World War.
Today, the Fussa Tanabata Festival is renowned for its grandeur and the city’s distinctive take on the celebration, creating an unforgettable experience for both Fussa locals and curious visitors.
One of the main attractions of the Fussa Tanabata Festival is the intricate Tanabata decorations that adorn the shopping district. Each decoration is thoughtfully crafted with creativity and dedication by local shops, and a contest is also held for the best decoration.
The festival is also famous for its diverse food stalls along Shin Okutama Street. Offering a taste of international cuisine that may not be usually available, this gastronomic adventure is a unique feature of the Fussa Festival.
July 8, 2023 (Saturday)
The festival will begin at 1 PM, with various booths from Fussa’s sister cities promoting their local specialties in the parking lot on the west side of Fussa Station. Simultaneously, there will be a community booth run by the Western Tama Chamber of Commerce Youth Division. Also, be sure not to miss the Mini Street Beat Jungle event presented by the Fussa Junior Chamber. All these activities will run until 9 PM.
One of the festival’s key highlights is the 18th Tanabata Orihime Contest, presented by Masuya. This event showcases the local culture and traditions tied to the Tanabata Festival and will take place from 2:30 PM to 5 PM at the specially built stage on the hill.
The official opening ceremony will start at 2 PM at the same location. Concurrently, various local stalls will begin operation along Sakae Street, offering a wide range of food and merchandise. These stalls will run until 8:45 PM.
A few more performances worth noting are the Hybrid Jazz Live at 5:20 PM and the performance by the United States Air Force Pacific Band ‘Final Approach’ at 7:20 PM, both at the special stage on the hill.
Throughout the day, there will be a variety of performances on the open stage in front of Fussa Station’s west exit. These include dances, music, and cheerleading. The stage will also host a special Tahitian Dance performance at 6 PM and a performance by the Mushu Karashishi Taiko Drum group at 6:30 PM.
July 9, 2023 (Sunday)
The festival continues on Sunday with a similar lineup of booths and activities, including the Mini Street Beat Jungle and stalls from Fussa’s sister cities. From 2 PM onwards, the open stage near the Fussa Station’s west exit will host a variety of performances, including those by local dance and music groups.
Additionally, there will be a Kamen Rider Geiz Show at 1:10 PM and 4:10 PM and a comedy show by Regular Bambino at 2 PM and 5 PM, both on the hill’s special stage.
In the evening, the Fussa Wind Orchestra will put on a performance at 7:45 PM, followed by the Fussa Tanabata Festival x Sports GOMI Championship, presented by Meiji Yasuda Life, from 6 PM to 9 PM.
The Birth of the Fussa Tanabata Festival
The Fussa Tanabata Festival was born on July 6, 1951, during a period when Japan was experiencing an economic boom due to the Korean War. During this time, the average life expectancy for women had just exceeded 60 years. The town of Fussa, with a population of about 15,000, launched the first “Fussa Tanabata Festival” in the Chuo Shonrei-kai located in front of Fussa Station. The width of the street in front of the station at that time was about 8 meters.
Influence of Sendai Tanabata Festival on Fussa
The origins of the Fussa Tanabata Festival can be traced back to the Sendai Tanabata Festival, an event long renowned for its Tanabata celebrations. Even when Sendai city was devastated by air raids during the Second World War, the people displayed their resilience by setting up large bamboo poles in front of their shops, decorating them with kusudama (a kind of spherical origami decoration), and continuing the Tanabata Festival tradition.
Saburo Sato, a Fussa town employee at that time, was deeply moved by the sight of the colorfully decorated bamboo in Sendai amidst the rubble. He said that the town, which was a mountain of rubble, became very bright with the colorful bamboo decorations. Inspired by this scene, Sato brought the concept back to Fussa, planting the seeds for the birth of Fussa’s Tanabata Festival. This event, born out of admiration for Sendai’s resilience and beauty in the face of adversity, has evolved over the years into the grand celebration it is today.
For those planning to visit, the nearest stations to the festival location are Fussa Station and Ushihama Station on the JR Ome Line. From Shinjuku Station, it is a 43-minute journey on the Chuo Line (Ome direction) and a 17-minute journey from Tachikawa Station on the Ome Line (Ome or Okutama direction).
Visitors coming by car can access the festival via National Route 16 from the Hachioji I.C. on the Chuo Expressway, approximately 10 km away. From the Hinode I.C. on the Metropolitan Area Outer Discharge Line, the festival location is about 5 km towards Fussa. However, as parking spaces are limited and heavy congestion is expected, public transportation is recommended.
The Sum Up
So come on down to the Fussa Tanabata Festival and immerse yourself in the joy, culture, and spirit of summer in Tokyo.