The Tanabata Festival in Japan is based on a Chinese legend that came from the mainland, and also combines some elements of a Japanese myth that was already in place. This festival occurs on the 7th of July, and is associated with the stars Vega and Altair.
Orihime, represented by the star Vega, was a princess and weaver who lived on the east side of the river of the Milky Way with her father, the Emperor. Kengyuu (Altair) was a very handsome and brave herdsman who lived on the other side of the river. The two met and fell in love, and everyone was happy, including the Emperor. However, Orihime spent so much time being with Kengyuu that she began to neglect her weaving work.
This made her father very angry, and he separated the two to opposite sides of the river, so that they could not meet. However, once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month, a flock of magpies forms a bridge across the Milky Way, and the two lovers are able to be with each other on this one night.
In Japan, the legend is celebrated with a big festival all over Japan, although certain cities are famous for their elaborate productions. People write their wishes onto colorful strips of paper and tie them to little bamboo trees. There are also huge parades with floats, dancers and lots of fireworks. The festivals also include lots of stands for food and games, usually set up at local shrines.
These are pictures from the Tanabata festivals of different cities. These are from Hiratsuka.
These two photos are from Oita City.
These are decorations from the celebration at Sendai.
It is interesting how this legend, that is originally from China, has become, over the course of many centuries, the focal point for a uniquely Japanese holiday. It has been assimilated and adapted to fit the needs and beliefs of the Japanese cosmology.
Here are some links to sites about the Tanabata festival. (I got a lot of photos and information from some of these sites. Thank you to their creators.)
TANABATA : Festival of Lover Stars Across the Milky Way
Sendai Tanabata Homepage
Japan Atlas: Tanabata Festival
Tanabata Festival in Oita City
All of these images belong to others, and I do not claim ownership. Thank you to the people I borrowed them from.
By Anne Gibson