If you’re coming to Japan, wouldn’t you like to experience a Japanese traditional event?
Tanabata is the Japanese traditional event known as the Star Festival. The Tanabata festival is celebrated all over Japan during June and July, and you can experience it at Tokyo Disney Resort(TDR). “Disney Tanabata Days”, the TDR Tanabata event, has been held every year since 2014 and is a popular summer tradition among TDR fans.
What is Tanabata?
Tanabata originated in ancient China. However, Chinese Tanabata festivals are different from the Japanese ones. Before explaining the Tanabata festival, I should first introduce the Tanabata’s story.
Tanabata is based on the legendary meeting of two stars, Hikoboshi and Orihime, which are represented by Altair and Vega, respectively. Hikoboshi was so fond of Orihime that he didn’t work and played with her all the time, which made the god angry. The angry god split Hikoboshi and Orihime apart by leaving them on the opposite sides of the banks of the Milky Way. However, the god permitted Hikoboshi and Orihime to reunite once a year on July 7. So Tanabata is held on that day every year, and it is said to be the day when lovers can reunite.
That’s a sad story, isn’t it? Everyone in Japan learns this story when they are children. The “Disney Tanabata Days” is based on this very popular folktale, with a Disney’s touch of magic added to it.
“Disney Tanabata Days” at Tokyo Disneyland
There are entertainment programs and decorations in the “Disney Tanabata Days” at Tokyo Disneyland. Tokyo Disney Sea also has a Tanabata program and I would like to write an article about it in the future.
Tanabata Greeting is a mini-parade. Here’s the details of this event.
- Period: From June 6 to July 7 (ex.2019)
- Location: Parade route
- Duration: About 25 minutes
- Performances: 2 per day
- Number of performers: 32
Mickey Mouse dressed as Hikoboshi(Altair) and Minnie Mouse dressed as Orihime (Vega), the two star-crossed sweethearts of this festival, will appear on a specially decorated rickshaws. Their Disney Friends will join them, greeting guests along the parade route to the traditional Tanabata song.
Disney Tanabata Days can only be seen at a limited season. Japanese Disney fans feel that summer has come by watching this event.
Who is pulling Mickey Mouse’s Special Rickshaw?
I want to talk about “Shigeru-san” who is pulling Mickey Mouse’s rickshaws! Actually, Shigeru isn’t his name. His name is Sojiro Okazakiya.
Sojiro Okazakiya is a genuine rickshaw man and runs a company of service using rickshaws, okazakiya.com.
He has visited all over Japan for rickshaw’s events. Japan was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. He visited the areas affected by the earthquake and encouraged the victims.
According to his homepage, he is also an annual pass holder and a big fan of Mickey Mouse. During Tanabata Greeting, we can see his big smile because he really enjoys pulling Mickey’s rickshaw.
Why is he called Shigeru-san? I’m not sure of the true reason, but there is a famous singer in Japan called Shigeru Matsuzaki, who looks so alike him. One thing for sure is that Shigeru-san and his big smile makes people who are watching happy, and he is beloved by Disney fans in Japan.
Traditional Tanabata song with a Disney touch!
There is a famous nursery rhyme of Tanabata. This song is familiar to all Japanese. It’s a very simple song and everyone can sing easily. And, this song”Tanabata-sama” is arranged in the Tanabata Greeting. New English lyrics are added to the original song and tempo is faster. I like this song and sing naturally when I hear the introduction. Here are the lyrics.
Sasa no ha sara-sara (The bamboo leaves are rustling,)“Tanabata-sama” song written by Hanayo Gondo
Nokiba ni yureru (and swaying in the eaves)
Ohosi-sama kira-kira (The stars are twinkling,)
Kin gin sunago (like gold and silver grains of sand)
Wishing Place & Wishing Cards
At the Tanabata festival, we have a tradition to hang wishing cards on a bamboo tree, and we can experience the same thing in Disneyland.
The Wishing Place, located in the center of World Bazaar, will be decorated with bamboo
branches and Tanabata streamers. Guests will be able to write their dreams and wishes on Wishing Cards and hang them at the Wishing Place. The Mickey-shaped wishing card is so lovely.
Japanese Rainy Season and Disney Characters in Raincoats
In Japan, there is a severe rainy season, called “Tsuyu”, and I have to write about it.
In the Kanto region, where Tokyo Disney Resort is located, the rainy season starts in early June and ends in mid-July. So, the time is the same as Disney Tanabata Days. Tanabata Greeting was sometimes canceled due to rain. But sometimes we can meet Disney Characters with raincoats! Their raincoats are special order made and it precisely fits the characters. The hat of Mickey Mouse’s is of course Mickey-shaped.
I think this is unique to Japan and there are also some advantages. Japan is well-equipped for rain with many options for convenient and well-designed rain gear. Guests can buy them inside or outside of the Parks.
We miss “Disney Tanabata Days” this year
According to the official schedule announced in 2019, “Disney Tanabata Days” is not planned to be held in 2020. I’m not sure why “Disney Tanabata Days” and some other events are eliminated from the annual schedule, but my guess is because of the two big events awaiting this summer, Tokyo Disney Resort didn’t think they had to rely on the Tanabata event to gather people. The two events are, the opening of Tokyo Disneyland’s largely developed area and the Tokyo Olimpic which was planned in Japan this year (Which was both sadly postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic). This is just my opinion and nothing official. I think we will be able to take part in Disney Tanabata Days again from next year.
I shared information on Disney Tanabata Days. I think this event is more Japanese than any other event in Tokyo Disney Resorts. Unfortunately, there aren’t Disney Tanabata Days this year, but I think this event will continue because it’s so popular in Japan.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment!
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