Haku Vodka Presents: The Festival of Tanabata at Masu

This July, in partnership with MASU, House of Suntory’s Haku vodka will bring to life a vivid celebration of Japanese mythology and culture right in the heart of Auckland’s CBD.

Also known as the “star festival,” Tanabata is a vibrant feast for the senses, which will be reflected in the immersive experience on offer at MASU, including a bespoke Haku vodka cocktail menu, contemporary Japanese fare, beautiful light displays and customary Tanabata “wishing trees”.

As diners arrive, they will be transported to spirited Japan, complete with live bamboo trees. These are where one of the most iconic symbols of the festival will be on display - long, thin strips of colourful paper known as “tanzaku” to be inscribed with guests’ wishes.

Above a backdrop of “fukinagashi” – layers of streamers which are emblems of the occasion - thousands of lights will adorn the restaurant to emulate the night sky, under which guests will enjoy a custom drinks menu created to honour the hallmarks of Tanabata.

As ancient legend tells, star-crossed deities Orihime and Hikoboshi were once banished to opposite sides of the Milky Way, allowed to come together only once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month (translated, Tanabata means “evening of the seventh”).

For over 1,000 years, the observance of their annual union in the skies above Japan has been marked by colourful decorations throughout towns and villages along with parades, banqueting, drinking and games.

MASU founder and chef restauranteur Nic Watt said Tanabata is one of the most exciting and colourful on the Japanese calendar and he’s thrilled to be honouring it at MASU with Haku vodka.

“I spent a number of years living and training in Tokyo, studying Japanese cuisine and taking part in the spectacular local events,” commented Watt.

“The Japanese are very observant of the seasons, deeply respecting fresh, seasonal eating and drinking, and festival cuisine reflects this. MASU really lends itself to the observance of Tanabata with its dynamic atmosphere, open kitchen and show-stopping food and cocktails.

“There’s a level of theatre in dining here. We’re excited to honour this occasion and share its traditions with our diners.”

Underpinning the cultural observance is a spirit reflective of Japan’s rich heritage, Haku. Haku, meaning “white,” is a craft vodka, born from 100% Hakumai rice and filtered through bamboo charcoal to deliver an unparalleled purity and unique flavour profile.

MASU’s award-winning mixologist, Akira Ohki, has crafted a menu of bespoke Haku vodka-based cocktails, which will be available exclusively during the celebrations. The creations include; “Tanabata bamboo” – cacao-infused Haku with mango and strawberry; “Kintsugi” – flavours of banana, pineapple and coconut with a gold garnish; “Orihime” – featuring cherry blossom mirin, strawberry and vanilla; “NZ Tanabata Harvest” – truffle-infused Haku, with apple and pear; “Blue Okawa Star” (an homage to how Osaka celebrates Tanabata by creating a “Milk Way” by floating thousands of blue lights on the Okawa River) – blue curacao with pineapple and yuzu; and the “Hakutini,” made with Dolin Blanc and yuzu.

Those who attend the celebrations at MASU have the chance to win a trip for two to Tokyo Japan, including six nights accommodation and a tour of a Suntory Distillery (worth $9,500).

Tanabata runs from July 1 – August 12.