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WHEN EAST MEETS WEST Tanabata Festival: A Herald of Summer

Tanabata decorations for the Tanabata Festival...Image via Wikipedia

Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.

Note: Hank  is a former resident of Gloucester City who resides in Kitakyushu City,  Japan. category WHEN EAST MEETS WEST

Tanabta Matsuri is the essence of summer and of summer festivals. Held in Japan on either July 7 or August 7, 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 Tanabatatsume as well as various Obon traditions together with the original Chinese festival, it eventually developed into the modern form that we see today,with people writing their wishes on"tanzaku"paper strips to decorate bamboo trees with them.


The tale of Tanabata part one:


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 bank of the Amanogawa (River of Heaven:The Milky Way). As her father loved her cloth that she wove,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 instintly 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  misconduct of the two, Tenkou separated Orihimi and Hikoboshi, placing the Amanogawa river between them.


Brokenhearted by the separation, Orihime begged her father to let her meet Hikoboshi again. Tenkou, who saw his daughter's tears,eventually gave in and agreed to let the two meet on the seventh day of 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 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 but the rain didn't come so they met and lived happily ever after.


The tale of tanabata part two


There a farm that belonged to a goddess named Tanabata.Soon,Tanabata visited Mikeran the weaver, inquiring about her robe she had ordered him to make for her. 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 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 (Cowherd Star, Altar) and the (Weaver Star, Vega)intersected. 


Warm regards from Kitakyushu City, Japan .

Hank F. Miller Jr.


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