7 July in Japan: Tanabata Matsuri, an unfortunate love story
7th of July in Japan is the day when wishes are expressed and love is celebrated.
Streets are decorated with flashy banners; outside houses and shops beautiful vases with bamboo tree show flutter slips of paper; smiling girls in elegant summer Yukata walk around the street … if you are in the middle of all this, you are experiencing the celebration of the Tanabata Festival!
What is it?
The day of the Tanabata recalls a Chinese legend with more than 1500 years of history.
The main characters are the beautiful princess Orihime, daughter of the King of Heaven, and the beautiful pastor Hikoboshi, a great worker respected by the gods.
Legend said that Orihime, a skilled weaver, unable to find love, was helped by her father who decided to introduce to her Hikoboshi. The two fell madly in love, so as to put aside their commitments and live their love exclusively.
The sweet Orihime stopped weaving and Hikoboshi stopped taking care of his animals.
This triggered the wrath of the king of the heavens who, as punishment, separated the two lovers from an impassable road, the Milky Way, and allowed them to see each other only one day a year. The seventh month of the seventh day (July 7th).
Even today, if you look at the sky on the night of 7 July, observing the milky way, two stars, in particular, stand out, Vega and Altair, representing the two lovers, finally ready to meet.
Make a wish by looking at the stars
With the arrival of this festival in Japan, aristocrats organized poetry games in order to celebrate this unlucky love. This custom spread little by little in all social classes, becoming a tradition according to which, writing one’s desire by looking at the stars during the day of the Tanabata, this could become reality.
Starting from the Edo period, the various cities began to show flutter slips of paper attached to bamboo canes, considered the ideal support because, with their natural propensity to grow upwards, they could have achieved more easily the sky, help the wish turning into reality.
But the expression of hope is not limited only to the Tanzaku.
There are talismans and other decorations such as the Fukinagashi, huge colored streamers that are hung from the ceiling of large buildings (former shopping centers). Their long trains represent the thread woven by Orihime and are often written with ancient poems.
Or again, the gru shaped Origami, the symbol of long life for the family and health.
Where to live it to the fullest
If we talk about Tanabata, the place to go and enjoy the matsuri experience properly is Sendai (Attention! Sendai follow the lunar calendar so instead of July the festival takes place at the beginning of August).