Tanabata Festival 2010

Detailing my experience of the Japanese Tanabata Festival, occurring on the 7th of July. Some pictures explaining what the festival is for are included.

Tanabata bamboo outside of my dormitory

I originally intended to write this post 9 days ago, but I just could not find the time to get on it. I blame my busy schedule for that. So finally and with a 9 days delay here comes a post about the Tanabata Festival, a japanese traditional festival.

The festival occurs every July the 7th. Hence the name Tanabata, which means evening of the 7th. It is a festival about 2 constellations. Orihime (known as Vega in English) and Hikoboshi(known as Altair in English). The story goes that the princess Orihime was the daughter of the Sky king and she was working very hard to weave beautiful clothes for her father. But she was very lonely. So her father arranged for her to meet with Hikoboshi a boy from the other side of Amanogawa (The heavenly river, aka The Milky way in English), who worked as an astral cow shepherd (…in other words, a space cowboy?? 😛 ). Sorry couldn’t resist ^^

Well they met, fell in love and got married. But the story does not end there. It seems that they were so much in love with each other that they did nothing else but spend time together, ignoring their work duties. This really angered Orihime’s father. And as you can guess you shouldn’t mess with someone who possesses the title of “King of the sky”. He punished them both by separating them and forcing them to stay in different sides of Amanogawa. Naturally, this made his daughter really sad and after some reconsideration he allowed them to meet only once each year. And with daddy’s permission on the 7th day of the 7th month they can meet by crossing the Amanogawa river and show their love for each other.

The Japanese celebrate this festival in a unique way. A week or so before the 7th of July (the 7th month) all over Tokyo decorated bamboo trees start appearing. It’s like christmas but instead of a pine tree they’ve got bamboo trees and instead of decorating it with glittery balls they put paper kimonos, paper stripes, paper strings and other stuff. If you walked a bit around Tokyo you could see lots of bamboo trees, small and big, others decorated a lot, others almost not decorated at all. Here are some photos I took:

This bamboo tree was in shimokitazawa, just across the north exit of the station

Tanabata in Shimokitazawa

This one is just at the entrance of the dormitory that I live in

Tanabata bamboo outside of my dormitory

This one is inside the cafeteria of my dormitory

Bamboo inside dorm cafeteria

One special thing that the Japanese add in the bamboo tree is wish papers. They take colored pieces of paper and there they add their wishes that they want to be granted. And it is said that one wish will get granted. So in all of the trees you will see papers with some kind of wish written on them.

Of course there is no way I would miss a chance of free wish granting so I participated too. On the bamboo tree inside the dorm’s cafeteria many people put up various wishes, ranging from getting a boyfriend/girlfriend (lol) to happiness for their families back home, and success in exams. There was even someone who wished for world peace! As for me here is what I put up in the bamboo tree:

Tanabata wish paper

It is in japanese and it says “Koufuku to Shiken ni goukaku suru youni”, which means I wish for happiness and for success in the exams. Pretty usual wishes, but well these are my biggest uncertainties at the moment 😉

Well that’s it, just a quick post about the tanabata festival in Japan as seen by me in July 2010. Pretty interesting event…let’s hope that the “wishes coming true” part of the legend is true!

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