Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Asagaya Tanabata Festival - Part 2

The opposite end of the shopping street (which lets out onto Ome Kaido avenue) during festival time.

There are actually three ends to the shopping street that the festival runs along. There's the end that opens from JR Asagaya station (pictured at the top the "Part 1" post I made previously) and two ends that branch out like the top of a Y that let out onto Ome KaidoAvenue, a major street in Tokyo. The JR end is the area which is prime real estate and I'm sure rental of space near it costs an astronomical amount. The other end (pictured above) lets out into an area which is mainly traveled by local residents and is far less lucrative for real estate agents. If you compare the two pictures, you can clearly see how one is elaborately decorated and heavily trafficked while the other looks a little forlorn, empty, and modestly decorated. The other Ome Kaido outlet is similarly unassuming.

Shops and pedestrians along the less-trafficked end of the shopping street during the festival.

The modest end has a very different character than the side closer to JR (which I will cover in more detail in subsequent posts). The shops at this end are small "Mom and Pop" places that tend to look a bit run-down. Beyond the car rental place at the entrance, you find a miniscule meat shop that sells breaded deep-fried cutlets out front, an over-priced green grocer, a tiny market selling mundane food items, a small bakery, and a butcher shop (among others). The JR end has McDonald's, Starbucks, Choco-cro cafe, and a huge Pachinko parlor. It's pretty clear which end speaks to the daily needs of locals and which end is for the crowd that's just passing through.

If you pay attention, you can see the fact that the Ome Kaido street end is more in touch with the community reflected in the decor. The decorations on this end are less professional and more homey.

Drawings of faces made by kids attending the nursery school on the street are pasted onto the decorative "box" hanging off the lamp post above the school. I'm guessing the drawings are actually self-portraits of the kids who did them but I have no way of knowing. This is in contrast to very professional-looking decorations artfully arranged near JR Asasgaya station.

Decorations made out of old 1.5 PET bottles carry tags with drawings by kids on them as well.

There are many things in the festival for kids to enjoy but it's not designed specifically for kids. The collection of children above probably are from the aforementioned nursery school since they're all together and wearing the same hats.

At a couple of points along the street, you can see little wading pools full of water and colorful bits of plastic. These games often offer goldfish or other cheap tropical fish as prizes.

The game aspect is skipped entirely in some cases and kids just scoop their fish out of tubs. Not having been a kid for quite some time, I'm not really sure of the appeal of this sort of thing but I guess it has to do with the joy of choosing your own pet. I seem to vaguely recall feeling I was choosing the "best" fish from a tank full of them when I was a child. I guess at that age, you antrhopomorphize enough to feel the various fish have personality or at least that some are prettier than others.

My students tell me that the goldfish that are won in such festival games tend to die very soon after they're acquired. I'm not sure if they only stock the oldest goldfish knowing it's not worth their while to give away fish that are going to possibly suffocate in plastic bags as their new owners enjoy the fruits of the festival or if they don't expect kids to take proper care of them but it is expected these will be very temporary pets. My students have also told me that these fish were often their first and only pets when they were growing up.

Some parents dress their kids up in lightweight kimono. I'm guessing they do this to get into the festive spirits of it all since there are no performances done by children as a part of the festival to my knowledge. While the kids may look cuter, I'm not sure it enhances their experience much. I think they're more uncomfortable. The kids in this picture certainly don't look all that happy.

A better and, at least to me, equally festive idea is to do as the mother in this picture has done and put your kids in a yukata. For those who can't tell the difference, a kimono has a wide belt (obi) which ties atthe back in relatively sophisticated ways. A yukata is tied with a string and is worn casually, is more lightweight, and tied with a string-style tie. A lot of yukata are white and blue with simple, repetitive designs and are more or less just a robe-style garment. Kimono are in a greater variety of colors and have a more lavish style.

The pictures I've used in this post are somewhat misleading as most people at the festival aren't dressed in either yukata or kimono and are in western-style garb. My husband took all these wonderful pictures and tended to focus on the more unique-looking aspects and I've also been selective about the pictures I've chosen to make the points I've wanted to make. When we get to the next area of the street, you'll see more adults and you'll notice they aren't wearing either yukata or kimono by and large. It seems the adults enjoy dolling up the kids in ways they themselves don't want to bother dressing.


Shawn said...

Interesting; I'd never seen the yukata before. I found it particularly amusing that the woman with three kimono-wrapped kids was dressed comfortably in jean capri pants and flip-flops. And, of course, then I read a paragraph or two further and you echo that very same thought ;)

Shari said...

Yukata are actually quite nice. They're thin, light, and made of cotton. My husband wears one around the house on occasion in the summer or tosses one on if he's not dressed properly for answering the door and the doorbell rings.

They're also relatively cheap but they don't carry the same feeling of luxury as a kimono.

I'd send you one if I thought I could find one I was sure would fit you!