The Star Festival (Tanabata Festival)

Working in a Japanese-dominated company has given me the chance to learn and understand the beautiful culture of Japan without actually going there. For a few years now, we have celebrated this festival in our workplace.

Today marks a special day in Japan. If Europe has its star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, Japan and China (where the Tanabata Festival originated) have Orihime and Hikoboshi.

Legend says that Orihime, the daughter of a god, had a job to weave elegant and beautiful clothes for the gods beside a river (Milky Way). And since this job requires a lot of time and effort, Orihime grew lonely. Seeing that his daughter is sad, her father arranged for her to meet a cow herder named Hikoboshi, who lived on the other side of the Milky Way. And just like any other love story we know, both fell in love at first sight and immediately got married.

Orihime and Hikoboshi, after getting married, neglected their responsibilities. She stopped weaving clothes and he stopped herding cows. Because of this, the gods, and maybe other people, grew angry at the two. As punishment, Orihime’s father, the god, decided to separate them. However, since he loves his daughter so much, he allowed them to meet once a year on the “seventh evening of the seventh month” or in modern times, July 7th as long as they continue to do their tasks.

On the day that they should meet, Orihime must cross a river in order to see Hikoboshi on the other side; however, she realized that there was no bridge that connects the two sides. From despair, she cried so much that a certain kind of bird (Magpies?) flocked to her and created a bridge for her. Most people believe that if it does not rain on the 7th of July, the lovers will not be able to meet each other because the Magpies won’t be able to make a bridge. At this point, I am unsure if the story I just mentioned is correct since there are so many versions of this tale in different areas in Japan.

The tradition of hanging “tanzaku” or colorful strips of paper on bamboo started sometime during the Edo period. Japanese people would usually write their wishes on paper and hang them on bamboo. These will then be burned and/or float away on rivers (depending on the region).

makeshift Bamboo
My wish (-.-)

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