As the summer months are fast approaching, so are this season’s festivals and colorful events in Japan. In Osaka particularly, an annual event called “Heisei OSAKA Legend of the Milky Way” lights up the Okawa River with little LED balls, making the river look like our galaxy, the Milky Way. Check it out!
This event is in relation to the celebration of Tanabata Festival. “Tanabata” means “the evening of the seventh,” and the festival is more commonly known as the Star Festival.
According to the legend, the two deities, Orihime and Hikoboshi, were separated across the Milky Way soon after their marriage. It served as a punishment from the Sky God, who is Orihime’s father, for neglecting their duties.
Orihime, the Weaving Princess, would weave beautiful clothes that her father loved so much. Because of her dedication and daily work, she was sad and worried that she might never meet someone and fall in love. Hence, her father searched for someone to be her husband. Soon, a meeting with Hikoboshi (Cowherd Star) was set and the two instantly fell in love and got married. However, after their marriage, Orihime stopped weaving and Hikoboshi’s cows strayed all over heaven which angered the Sky God, thus punishing them.
Orihime became very depressed with the loss of her husband and begged her father to let them meet. Moved by her daughter’s request, the Sky God granted them to be reunited once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month (lunar calendar).
The celebration of the two deities meeting is commemorated in the Tanabata Festival. The festival dates vary from region to region as some follow the lunar calendar, while others follow the Gregorian calendar.
In Osaka, Tanabata is celebrated every July 7th. Part of the celebration is the recreation of the Milky Way at the Okawa River in Tenmabashi where thousands of “Inoriboshi” LED lights are released, illuminating the river with its blue lights. The event starts at 6:00 pm and ends at 9:00 pm.
Mini Concert and Boat Procession/Parade
The event usually starts with an opening program. There will be a mini concert and a boat procession along with it. Then, thousands of Inoriboshi will be released on the river. Watch them as they light up the river and make it look like a starry night sky.
Milky Way/Tanabata Cruise
Another activity that you can do during this colorful event is to join a cruise. There are two cruise ships to choose from if you want to experience this yearly attraction at Okawa River. The Tanabata Cruise is available at 15,000 yen per person. This fee includes tax, boarding fee, Inoriboshi ticket, and a full course meal. If you want a more affordable ride, the Amanogawa (Milky Way) Cruise is only 2,400 yen per adult and 1,800 yen per child.
“Rakugo” literally means “fallen words” in Japanese. It is a traditional way of comic storytelling where the storyteller is in a sitting position the entire time and uses only two items as props, a fan and hand towel. These props can be used as a cigarette, glass, knife, or any other item that the story requires. This event will be in Japanese, but if you still want to experience this kind of entertainment, you can visit their website for reservation details.
Another event highlight is the Tanabata Bar. You can enjoy eating various Japanese food available at the participating restaurants during this event. To experience the Tanabata Bar, you can purchase a ticket for 2,100 yen (advance reservation) or for 2,400 yen (when purchased on the day of the event).
This event is one of the colorful events in Osaka this July 2017. After the successful first Heisei OSAKA Legend of the Milky Way in 2009 wherein thousands of people participated, this event became an annual attraction and destination for local and foreign travelers alike. The summer season, especially the month of July, is the time when you can find lots of things to do and activities to participate in Osaka.
Heisei OSAKA Legend of the Milky Way 2017 Website *Japanese only