July is fast approaching! So, what’s interesting in July? Aside from the fact that it’s my mother’s, my cousin’s, my niece’s and my uncle’s birthdays (which you really don’t actually care about), it’s also America’s Independence Day (July 4th), which you may not be interested in either. What is fun and interesting, though, is getting to experience one of Japan’s amazing annual festivals all to do with love, wishes, heaven and the universe!
This is an epic annual event in Japan that captures everyone’s interest, from locals to the many tourists from all around the world. The Tanabata festival is based on heaven, the universe, and love. The celebrations involve wishes, dreams, and special requests being written down on note paper and then hung on a branch of a tree, but not any ordinary tree, a special bamboo tree. Yes, if you have heard of it, you will know that this festival is the Tanabata Festival or the Festival of the Weaver, and is also known as the Star Festival. This is one of the five annual festivals in Japan and is held on various dates between July and August all over the country with the first festivities starting on July 7th.
Tanabata is a legend that originated from China and is about two lovers in heaven. It involves a Weaving Princess, Orihime and a Cow Herder, Hikoboshi who were introduced to each other by Orihime’s father, King Tentei, the universe. Both fell in love with each other instantly, got married and after that, refused to do anything else, even important things like working. Orihime stopped weaving cloth for her father, the King Tentei, and Hikoboshi let his cows stray all over heaven which infuriated the King. As punishment, the King separated them with the Milky Way and only allowed them to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month.
As mentioned previously, the festival is celebrated across all regions of Japan and even throughout many schools. On Kyushu’s small Oshima Island, the Tanabata festival is celebrated on the 7th of August, where people from the small village gather at the community center, to see children and adults join in song and dance presentations throughout the day. There is even a short ritual commemorating the union of Orihime and Hikoboshi using lit-up bamboos and poles. No matter where you celebrate the Star Festival, it will be an amazing, fun, and enlightening experience!
So, if you are traveling to Japan in July or August, be sure to keep an eye out for Tanabata festival dates in the neighboring regions. With delicious food stalls, great people, and an enchanting grand finale of fireworks, it is indeed one of many Japanese festivals that will remain in your treasure box of memories forever. Join in on the celebrations and make a wish. You never know, it may just come true!