Tanabata (七夕) also known as the “Star Festival”, is a popular festival in Tokyo, and is celebrated on July 7th each year. This festival celebrates the meeting of the gods Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair).
Legend of Two Lovers
Orihime (織姫 Weaving Princess), daughter of the Tentei (天帝 Sky King), wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (天の川 Milky Way). Her father loved the clothes, but Orihime was sad because she could never meet and fall in love with anyone.
Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi (彦星 Cow Herder Star) who herded cows on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell in love with each other and got married. However, once she was married, Orihime didn’t weave anymore clothes for her father, and Hikoboshi didn’t herd his cows. Tentei was angry at this, and he separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa. Orihime was so upset that she begged her father to allow her to see her husband. Her father agreed and allowed them to meet on July 7th.
On the first night Orihime was to meet Hikoboshi, they were not able to because there was no bridge to cross the river. Orihime cried so much that magpies came and promised to use their wings to make a bridge. It is said that if it rains on July 7th, the magpies cannot come and build the bridge. So everyone wishes for good weather!
People celebrate by writing wishes on tanzaku (短冊), small pieces of colorful paper, and then hang them on bamboo branches. The bamboo are usually put on floats on a river, or burned after the festival. Of course, there are also many other decorations, floats, food stalls, and parades! So if you are in Tokyo during this time, make sure you join the fun!
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