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Home / Art and Culture / Japan’s Tanabata Festival commemorates the fabled reunion of Orihime and Hikoboshi. See pics

Japan’s Tanabata Festival commemorates the fabled reunion of Orihime and Hikoboshi. See pics

According to legend, deities Orihime (Vega) and her lover Hikoboshi (Altair), separated by the Milky Way, are allowed to meet only once a year during this period. People celebrate Tanabata festival by writing wishes on strips of paper and hanging them under bamboo trees.

art-and-culture Updated: Jul 07, 2020 19:33 IST
hindustantimes.com | Edited by Saumya Sharma
hindustantimes.com | Edited by Saumya Sharma
Hindustan Times, Delhi
The dates of the Tanabata festival varies by region in Japan but the first festivities begin on July 7 as per the Gregorian calendar.
The dates of the Tanabata festival varies by region in Japan but the first festivities begin on July 7 as per the Gregorian calendar. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tanabata or The Star Festival, has been is celebrated in Japan since 755 and is one of the main summer festivals in the country. Tanabata originated from a Chinese myth dating back several millennia. The dates of the Tanabata festival varies by region in Japan but the first festivities begin on July 7 as per the Gregorian calendar. The celebration is held on various days in the months of July and August.

One of the most popular customs of Tanabata is to write wishes on small strips of paper called tanzaku. Tanzaku is then pinned onto or hung under bamboo trees. The wishes, along with the bamboo, is then set afloat on a river or burned once the festival is over.

Visitors attach paper strips with their wish written on them for the Star Festival or "tanabata" to a bamboo branch at a temple in Tokyo.
Visitors attach paper strips with their wish written on them for the Star Festival or "tanabata" to a bamboo branch at a temple in Tokyo. ( AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko )

Tanabata and Obon are linked in terms of the customs, except that in case of the latter, paper boats are set afloat. As per the Japanese lunisolar calendar, the two festivals would often overlap. They became separate events once the Gregorian calendar began being used.

Google Japan today marked this festival with a doodle commemorating the reunion of two star-crossed lovers, the deities Orihime (Vega) and her lover Hikoboshi (Altair) kept apart by the Milky Way.

A visitor attaches paper strips with her wish written on it for the Star Festival or "Tanabata" to a bamboo branch at a temple.
A visitor attaches paper strips with her wish written on it for the Star Festival or "Tanabata" to a bamboo branch at a temple. ( AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko )
Paper strips with visitors' wishes written on them are decorated on a bamboo branch for the Star Festival or "tanabata" at a temple in Tokyo.
Paper strips with visitors' wishes written on them are decorated on a bamboo branch for the Star Festival or "tanabata" at a temple in Tokyo. ( AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko )

The legend of Orihime and Hikoboshi

A weaver princess named Orihime, the daughter of the Sky King, and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi lived peacefully by the “heavenly river” of the Milky Way. However, when they met and fell in love, the duo began neglecting their responsibilities.

Orihime stopped weaving cloth, and Hikoboshi let his cows wander all over the skies. This attitude towards work angered the king, and as punishment he separated the two lovers across the galaxy.

 

The king eventually relented and allowed the much-in-love couple to meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month (July 7 as per the calendar).

The legend also stresses that the two can’t meet if it’s raining, so it is necessary for people to pray for clear skies on this day.

A wish in Japanese meaning "End of corona epidemic," written for the Star Festival or "Tanabata".
A wish in Japanese meaning "End of corona epidemic," written for the Star Festival or "Tanabata". ( AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko )

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festivities will be curbed, keeping WHO guidelines in mind.

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