Tanabata or the Star Festival in Japan is inspired from the Chinese Qixi Festival. Empress Kouken introduced it in Japan during 755. The festival became popular during early Edo period and developed to the modern Tanabata festival.
The story of Tanabata is very touching. Once upon a time in the heaven Orihime the weaving princess lived a lonely life. She was the daughter of mighty Tentei- the king of the universe. She wove beautiful cloth by the bank of Milky Way. She used to work very hard and everyone in the heaven loved the cloth she wove.
One day Tentei noticed that his beloved daughter is sad because she is too busy weaving that she can’t meet meet anyone and fall in love. Concerned Tentei arranged a meeting with Hikoboshi- the Cowherd. He was a modest man who lived and worked on the other side of Mily Way. When Orihime and Hikoboshi met they fell instantly in love with each other and got married shortly after.
After marriage both of them were so much in love that they forgot their jobs. Orihime would no longer weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi’s cows wandered all over the heaven. Seeing this Tentei got so upset that he separated the two lovers accross the Milky Way and forbade them to meet ever again. Orihime longed for Hikoboshi. She asked her father to let them meet again. Even Tentei was moved by her tears and allowed the two lovers to meet once every year on the night of July 7th.
First time they tried to meet they couldn’t cross the Milky Way because there was no bridge. Seeing the sadness in their eyes a flock of magpies came and made a bridge with their wings to help Orihime cross.
It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.
This is probably one of the oldest stories of a long distance relationship. I guess calling it a long distance relationship is a very modern interpretation. But isn’t it ideal? You cherish every single moment when you finally meet after months of waiting. Its for those who spend most of the time alone to spend the little amount of time with the person they truly love. When you think about it this is how the story must have taken its form. Someone must have seen Altair and Vega in the sky separated by the Milky Way and related it to the real life situation.
During this festival people write their wishes or poems on a colourful paper and hang it on a bamboo branch. In the city you get to see these colourful decorations. I tied my wish on a bamboo tree in a nearby shrine. Hope it comes true.
The decorations everywhere are worth seeing. It is popular to take a stroll on the decorated streets. They are alive with small food stalls. This is not just in case of Tanabata but for all the festivals Takoyaki(octopus dish), Yaki-soba(noodles), small sweet dishes such as fruits on a stick dipped in chocolate sauce are popular snack items.. everything very easy to eat and really tasty.
If you are in Japan during early July don’t miss this beautiful festival. And even if you are not in Japan this time, make a wish today, I hope it comes true.
For more such stories about Japan visit my blog once in a while. 🙂