Today was the official date of Tanabata, otherwise known as the Japanese Star Festival. Much like last year, I observed the occasion by tying a wish on some local bamboo shoots. Of course, it wasn’t written in Japanese like the picture to the right, but it wish was simple and inkeeping with the mythology behind the festival.
Orihime, the daughter of the Tentei wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Milky Way. Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, she was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi sometimes called Kengyuu who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa River (Milky Way). When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and were shortly married. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven.
In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa River and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if Orihime worked hard and finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. If it rains, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait till next year.
I love how simple the major practice of Tanabata is, which is probably why it’s the only Japanese celebration I observe. I look forward to it every summer because I want to believe that such a simple gesture can have meaning in this world. You can tie a wish to a bamboo shoot too, if you hurry. ^_^