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Discovering the beauty of Japan

The Daibutsu or “Great Buddha” is one of Kamakura’s most recognizable landmarks. At the Kotoku-in Temple, it is about 13.35m tall and continues to stand even after a 15th-century tsunami in the area. (Annamika Konkola/YJI)

Kanagawa, JAPAN —A midsummer weekend in Kanagawa led me to new memories as I explored two of its cities: Hiratsuka and Kamakura. Vibrant festivals and centuries-old landmarks created an unforgettable experience reflecting Japan’s rich history.


Amid the buzz of a Tanabata Matsuri festival in July, colorful streamers fill major shopping streets in Hiratsuka. (Annamika Konkola/YJI)

As the sun’s warm rays touch upon its bustling streets, this city comes alive with a celebration deeply rooted in Japanese culture—Tanabata Matsuri. 

Imagine stepping into a world where wishes take flight on shimmering streams of color, and where ancient stories meet modern celebrations under the vast afternoon horizon.

This is the magic of Tanabata Matsuri, Japan’s enchanting “Star Festival,” held in cities internationally.

Rows of decorations adorn the area. One row features animals from the Chinese zodiac. (Annamika Konkola/YJI)

Tanabata Matsuri finds the city of Hiratsuka transformed into a vibrant kaleidoscope of decorations, as streamers fill the streets with a sense of celebration. 

This festival traces its roots to ancient folklore, where the story of Orihime, a celestial weaver princess, and Hikoboshi, a cowherd, finds new life against the backdrop of Hiratsuka’s streets.

According to the legend, they were separated by the Milky Way and allowed to meet only on the seventh day of the seventh month.

In Hiratsuka and across Japan, this legend is remembered through festivals.

On this day, for Tanabata Matsuri, new hopes are woven into streamers and families walk together through the celebrations.

Families enter a street to gaze up at the multicolor decorations overhead. (Annamika Konkola/YJI)


Kamakura is a captivating city in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, known for its deep historical roots and natural beauty.

In mid-July at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, water lilies and cloudy skies invite serenity. (Annamika Konkola/YJI)
Only on especially hot days, these “windows” in the back of the Daibutsu are opened. (Annamika Konkola/YJI)

It was once a political and spiritual center during Japan’s medieval era, and its legacy lives on through centuries-old temples, shrines and statues. 

Nestled between green hills and the expansive Pacific Ocean, Kamakura offers a timeless journey through Japan’s past, where traditional memories are found amidst the modern lives of today.

It’s easy to get lost in the stories embedded in the historic landmarks.

Annamika Konkola is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

The Kamakura Daibutsu’s sandals are displayed on the wall. (Annamika Konkola/YJI)
Ascending a staircase to the interior of the Daibutsu, visitors can pause to read a bronze plaque, a moment of reflection within the tranquil hollow of the statue, sheltered from the sun. But visitors are warned not to stay more than a few minutes because of the summer’s heat. (Annamika Konkola/YJI)
Information about the Great Buddha is posted in both Japanese and English for visitors. (Annamika Konkola/YJI)

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