Tanabata 七タ- The Star FestivalMikie Watanabe | Cultural Adaptation
Once upon a time, a woman called Orihime (Vega) and a man called Hikoboshi (Altair) lived across the Heavenly River (Milky Way). Orihime weaved kimonos, and Hikoboshi was a cattleman. Orihime’s father the God of the Sky was looking for a marriage partner for her and he introduced her to Hikoboshi the hard worker. Hikoboshi and Orihime fell in love at once and became husband and wife.
They were so deeply in love with each other that they ended up neglecting their duties. The people’s kimonos crumbled and the cows got sick. God was angry and forced them to live separate from one another across the Heavenly River as punishment. However, God, who pitied the grieving Orihime, permitted that the two meet each other at the shores of the heavenly river only one night of the year, July 7.
They worked hard afterward in preparation for the day, and they wait expectantly for the Star Festival every year. However, unfortunately, the date of Tanabata is in the rainy season, so if it rains on that night, the only chance when Hikoboshi and Orihime can meet all year, the Heavenly River will be flooded with rainwater. Both lovers will be unable to meet each other. But it is said that when the river overflows, a Magpie flies to help them.
When you look up in the sky at night, you will be able to find their stars and the Milky Way. The Heavenly River represents the Milky Way, the galaxy containing the solar system and our Earth. Orihime’s star represents Vega which is located to the west of the Milky Way, one of the brightest stars in the Lyra constellation. Hikoboshi’s star represents Altair, which is located to the east of the Milky Way, star of the Aquila constellation.
When you find their stars, think about the story of Orihime and Hikoboshi. There are Tanabata festivals held a day before July 7th, and a day afterward in every region of Japan. People write their wishes on colorful paper strips and hang them on bamboo branches. People create beautiful origami paper crafts to hang as well. In Iwakuni, you can enjoy the Tanabata atmosphere in downtown Iwakuni or Sanzoku (the Chicken Shack) restaurant. They will decorate with colorful Tanabata ornaments.