If you’ve ever wanted to take part in one of Japan’s colourful festivals, then Tanabata Days – or the Star Festival – held mid year might just be the thing for you. A tale of star crossed lovers and wishes sent up into the universe is the core of the festivities that invites participants to write their wishes on strips of paper – or at Tokyo Disneyland, a mickey shaped note – and hung on Bamboo stalks. These wishes are then lit on fire at the conclusion of the festival sending them wafting to the heavens, ready for granting.
A little more about its origins.
Tanabata Days are one of only a handful of occasions where you can catch the Disney Characters dressed in traditional Japanese clothing at the Tokyo Disney Resort and there is nothing quite as wonderful as seeing Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a Yukata in Japan.
Twice daily, the Tanabata Greeting Parade weaves its way through the park to welcome you to the festivities. Grab a place along the parade route to enjoy the Fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy) dressed in their Yukata (traditional Kimono-style clothing). Another top parade tip – If you pack a little pop-up umbrella (or better yet, buy one of the many cute ones on sale in the parks) you will have some portable shade in the Tokyo summertime while you wait.
Tokyo Disney Resort has some of the cutest food in all of the world’s Disney Parks. There are so many options for enjoying the festival’s exclusive food offerings, and a little planning before you go will save you a lot of time waiting for a table. By planning to dine outside of the usual meal times, your waits will be significantly shorter. Grab a snack when you enter the park at the wonderful bakeries in both Disneyland and Disneysea, and then have brunch instead of lunch is a great idea to save you having to stop for too long. Tokyo Disney Resorts have the most wonderful tradition of presenting their celebration foods in souvenir cups, plates and even lunch boxes which are a wonderful way to take a little of the magic home with you.
Of course, what is a vacation without a few souvenirs, and when I say ‘a few’, I mean a suitcase full. Japan thinks of gifts that you didn’t even know you needed but can’t go home without. Much of the festival merchandise will have Mickey and Minnie Mouse or Duffy and Shellie May dressed in their Yukatas and again, its one of the few times of the year these goodies are available, making them sell out fast. Alongside the expected t-shirts, socks and key chains, you will find gems like exclusive pins, beautiful stationary and a myriad of chopsticks. The 3D gifting tins ( known as Omiayage ) filled with candy or crackers are truly beautiful, and are worth every inch of precious suitcase space to get them home.
Take a look at some of the 2016 festival exclusive food and merchandise.
When to go:
The Tanabata Festival at Tokyo Disney Resort is held in summer each year and 2017 dates are June 15th through July 7th. Tokyo is home to over 13 million people, and a great many of them love heading to Disney on the weekends. At any special event in the Tokyo Disney parks, the crowd levels will be greater than usual, with the best days to visit being Tuesday through Friday. Plan to arrive at the parks as early as possible and then use that time to gather Fast Passes and ride the attractions that tend to have long waits.
Plan your stay with this crowd calendar of average daily attendance.
Summer in Tokyo can be hot and humid so its best to pack light clothes and cool and comfy shoes built for walking. In the heat, a parasol/pop up umbrella is still a great option and widely used throughout Japan. Another consideration is that if you have visible tattoos, you may be asked to cover them to gain entry into the parks, so pack a floaty cotton shirt with sleeves if you fall into this category. This is mostly because of the association of tattoos with gangs in Japan. While tattoos seem to be very slowly becoming a little more accepted, it is most definitely still a ‘thing’ and something to be mindful off. A tip for photographers, leave that heavy tripod at home as it will not be allowed into the parks either. Alternatively, bring a small flexible one such as a gorilla pod, to use on table tops or anything at the right height.
If you are staying at a Disney Hotel or Good Neighbour Hotel, you can purchase directly through them on arrival or through the official website prior to arrival. Keep in mind that you must nominate which park you will be attending on the first two days, and then you may park-hop for subsequent days.
And lastly, remember to make your wish on a Mickey-shaped note handed out by the cast members dressed in Yukata, and hang them on the wishing tree before you go. I always ‘wish’ to return.
Have you visited the parks during Tanabata? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments.
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