Jun 9, 2018
Gallery - Hiratsuka Tanabata
July 2018 will mark the 68th Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival, but before we get into talking about one of the top three Tanabata celebrations in Japan, let's look at the city I call home.
A brief history
Hiratsuka was the site of multiple samurai battles during the Warring States period (1467-1615) between the Hojo clan and Miura clan, and later became an important stop on the Tokaido road which connected Edo with Kyoto. Leading up to WW2 it was the home to a naval ammunition depot which was damaged during bombing runs on July 16, July 30th, and August 13, 1945. Keep an eye out around Sogo Park and you'll see some of the remains of that ammunition depot.
Perhaps the highlight of living in Hiratsuka is the relaxed lifestyle. Hiratsuka is cheap enough, and close enough to Yokohama and Tokyo that many people living here commute out for work. That being said it still retains the quiet Shonan area atmosphere. While there is only 1 train line in or out of Hiratsuka, public transportation is still quite convenient and plentiful. The only thing to watch out for are the blue buses which have a lot more seating, but not much leg room if you're taller than the average Japanese.
Of course Hiratsuka has its full of shopping centers (Olympic, La La Port, Lusca), but if you find yourself here any time of year, there are 3 places worth visiting, starting from the station area and moving outwards:
1. Hachimangu Shrine. Only a few minutes walk from the station and frequently holding some sort of event. Expect to see shrine maidens, decorations, and probably some shaved ice stalls if the weather is right.
2. Hiratsuka Art Museum. This one you'll probably want to take the bus (175 yen), but you can walk there in about 20 minutes. There is an entry fee ranging from 200-800 yen depending on the exhibit but they offer discounts if you present them with their QR page. http://www.city.hiratsuka.kanagawa.jp/art-muse/info3.html
If you don't care for art, then just across the street is the Hiratsuka Planetarium which does various themed shows year-round.
3. Komayama Park, aka Shonan Daira. About 40 minutes from the station by bus, you can enjoy hiking trails, picnic areas, a small cafe, and a viewing platform where you can see an unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji, as well as a wide scope of the Shonan area.
After you've had fun sightseeing, I wholeheartedly recommend grabbing a bite to eat near the station at 北海道豚丼なまらうまい a Hokkaido-style restaurant specializing in beef and pork bowls, or it's neighbor 川万 which has been serving grilled unagi for longer than anyone in town can remember.