English: Image of a net (toami) Tanabata decoration, photographed during the Sendai Tanabata Festival, held at Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. I took this photograph on August 7, 2005. This image is multi licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. commons:category:Tanabata commons:category:Sendai commons:category:2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.
Tanabata Matsuri is the essence of summer and summer festivals. Held in Japan on either July 7 or August 7, in other Asian countries such as China and South Korea also hold Star Festivals.
The original form of Tanabata derives from Qi Xi, the Chinese Star Festival. Introduced to the Imperial Palace in Kyoto during the Nara Era (eight century), it became a popular event among the general public in the early Edo Period (17th century).
Mixing the old tale of Tanabata assumes as well as various Oban traditions together with the original Chinese festival, it eventually developed into the modern form that we see today,with people writing their wishes on "Tanzania" paper strips to decorate Bamboo trees with them.
The Tale of Tanabata
According to the tale of Tanabata, once upon a time , there was a princess named Orihime (Weaving Princess).She was the daughter of Tenkou (Sky King) and wove beautiful cloth along the banks of Amanogawa (River of Heaven: The Milky Way).
As her father loved her cloth, she worked hard every day weaving. But she was unhappy because her work prevented her from meeting anybody and falling in love.Tenkou, who felt sorry for his daughter, arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi (Cow Herder Star), who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa.Upon meeting ,the two fell in love instantly and got married shortly after.But upon marriage,Orihime stopped weaving cloth for Tenkou while Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over the heavens.Distressed by the two, Tenkou separated Orihime and Hikoboshi, placing the Ananigawa between them. Brokenhearted by the separation,Orihime begged her father to let he meet Hikoboshi again.Tenkou,who saw his daughter,tears,eventually gave in and agreed to let the two meet on the seventh month,under the condition that Orihime worked hard and finished her weaving.
But the first time they tried to meet they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. A flock of magpies who Orihime met sympathized with Orihime, who cried her heart out because she could not meet Hikoboshi.The birds promised to build a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river the next time.But if it rained, the magpies would not be able to come and the two lovers would have to wait again.But the magpies had a friend who had a farm on the other side of the river, the farmer had a boat so the farmer came to take Orihime to the other side to meet Hikoboshi, and they lived happy ever after.
As it happened the farm belonged to a goddess named Tanabata.Soon,Tanabata visited Mikeran a weaver near the farm and inquiring about her robe.Mikeran lied to Tanabata,saying that he had not found the robe, but would help her search for it.
Eventually the two fell in love,got married and had many children.But one day,Tanabata found a piece of cloth on the roof of Mikeran's hut.She recognized it was the cloth that once belonged to her robe. Discovering his lie,Tanabata agreed to forgive Mikeran if he wove 1,000 pairs of straw shoes. But she told him that she would leave him until the work was finished.
Mikeran failed to weave all the shoes during his lifetime, and thus could never meet Tanabata again. But the two were said to be able to meet once a year in heaven,when the stars Altair and vega intersected.
Tanabata Customs and dates
Today,people in Japan celebrate Tanabata by writing wishes, sometimes in the form of poetry, on small pieces of paper.
These strips of paper are hung on tall bamboo trees that bear other decorations. In some regions,these bamboo and decorations are set afloat on a river or burned after the festival ends at around midnight or on the next day.
This is similar to the custom of floating paper ships with lighted candles on rivers during Oban season,Oban is a festival held in mid summer when the Japanese welcome and entertain their ancestors spirits who are believed to return home in August.
The original date of the Tanabata festival was based on the Japanese lunisolar calendar, which is roughly one month behind the Gregorian calendar. This is why some festivals are held July 7 and others are held around Aug.7. In other areas,the event is still held on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the traditional Japanese Iunisolar calendar which usually falls in August on the Gregorian calendar.
It presently is rainy season here in Japan and rain falls nearly every day sometimes all day and night long.So everything grows really wild and quickly with all of the water, next week I'll be in hospital for surgery on my lung.When I return home I'll have quit a lot of work to look forward to.Have a really great summer.
Warm Regards & Best Wishes from Kitakyushu City Fukuoka,Japan.
Hank F. Miller Jr.
Note: Hank is a former resident of Gloucester City who resides in Kitakyushu City, Japan. category WHEN EAST MEETS WEST