Tanabata Festival: Orihime and Hikoboshi’s Fateful Meeting

  • Japan has numerous festivals celebrating their rich culture, one of which is Tanabata Festival or Star Festival. Japan has no particular date for this festival although it usually starts from July 7th until the end of August depending on the area all across Japan.

    What’s the story behind Tanabata Festival?

    The Legend of Tanabata

    Tanabata Festival celebrates the meeting of deities named Orihime and Hikoboshi. Orihime and Hikoboshi are two friends and lovers who are only allowed to meet once a year. Their story commences when Orihime was tasked to decorate the sky with weaved clothing that you now call clouds.

    While working so hard to weave fine clothing, Orihime fell ill. Her father, the King of the Skies, let her rest and do whatever she desires. Thus, Orihime went to play in the Heavenly River. She then met Hikoboshi, the cow herder star whose job is to take care of the cows producing the Heavenly River. When they met in the only bridge built at the river, Hikoboshi asked Orihime if she likes to wander through the river and discover new things. She then agreed.

    Enjoying her time with Hikoboshi, she forgot to come home, making her father worried. Her father sent out magpies (crows) to tell her daughter come home. Orihime disagreed, and as a consequence, the King of the Skies became furious. He forced her to come home and destroyed the only bridge at the Heavenly River. He then forbade Orihime and Hikoboshi to ever meet again.

    Upset with what happened, Orihime requested her father if they could both settle for an agreement. Affected by her daughter’s loneliness, her father then agreed for them to meet if she works hard in weaving for one whole year. In the end, Orihime and Hikoboshi can only meet once a year in the 7th day of the 7th month provided Orihime works hard in weaving.

    Traditional Custom in Japan

    The Japanese people celebrate this festival by writing wishes on small pieces of paper then hanging them on bamboo branches. The bamboo branches will be set afloat in a river or be burned after the festival.

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