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the star festival
Today was so boring that I almost forgot what day it was!
(tanabata wishes tied to a tree)
Today is the Star Festival, or Tanabata (七夕). It’s a very sweet holiday with routes in China, now celebrated in different ways across Asia. In Japan, Tanabata is generally held on July 7th, but in Hokkaido it’s pushed forward to the much more summery August 7th.
So let’s talk a little about it!
The story of Tanabata is a love story. It’s the story of two young lovers, who are represented by the stars Altair and Vega, and how they are separated by the Milky Way.
Once upon a time, the God of Heaven has a beautiful daughter named Orihime (Vega). She was a skilled weaver and made beautiful kimono. She was a hard worker and spent every day at her loom.
When she came of age, her father decided it was time for her to marry, and he searched for a suitable husband.
He found a cowherd, Hikoboshi (Altair). This young man was very handsome and a very hard worker. He was skilled at his job and worked all day keeping his herd. He was perfect for Orihime.
God brought them together, and they fell in love at first sight. They’d never felt this way before in their lives. They agreed to get married.
They started their married life happily. They really enjoyed each other’s company, and played all day. They started to forget about work.
Orihime’s weaving was getting worse, and Hikoboshi wasn’t taking good care of the cows. God was furious. He warned the young couple that they couldn’t forget their jobs, but they ignored him.
So, in anger, God separated the lovers across the Milky Way. At first, it seemed to work. They went back to their jobs. But, their work wasn’t as good as it used to be. Orihime cried all day, and her eyes were so filled with tears she could barely weave. Hikoboshi was so distraught that he couldn’t focus. His cows grew thinner and thinner. It was a real disaster!
God felt bad for his daughter and her husband. So one day he finally gave in, and made them promise that, as long as they work their hardest, they can meet once a year.
A flock of magpies come during Tanabata and build a bridge across the Milky Way so that the two can cross.
So, Tanabata is a celebration of that one night when they can be together.
It’s a cute story, isn’t it? It’s not just a good day for Orihime and Hikoboshi, though. All across Japan people write their wishes on paper and tie them to trees. Every town has it’s own customs, sometimes having whole festivals or putting out special decorations.
So keep your eyes out if you’re in Hokkaido around this time, you may be able to read some wishes tied up around town!