Tanabata, Festival of Forlorn Lovers

The seventh day of the seventh month in Japanese mythology is the day Tanabata – celebrating the festival of forlorn lovers.
In Japanese mythology the seventh day of the seventh month is the festival of Tanabata (meaning the “night of the seventh”) on which day Orihime and Hikoboshi, two lovers separated by the milky way, are allowed to meet once a year.

Altair and Vega in July skyWinters are relatively dry in Japan. As it happens, the Milky Way also appears thinner and less dense in winters. July is the rainy season (called Tsuyu) and the Milky Way looks much denser in the sky – like a swollen river.

The old Japanese, when they looked up at the night sky in July, they saw two bright stars coming closer to each other on the banks of a river of light: Vega which they believed was Orihime, and Altair which had to be Hikoboshi.

women wearing yukata on Tanabata festivalJapanese  celebrate Tanabata by holding festivals, mainly along shopping malls and streets, decorated with large, colorful streamers.

Among many traditions, they write wishes on pieces of colorful paper (called tanzaku), and hang them on branches of bamboo. The bamboo and paper wishes are typically set afloat on a river (perhaps symbolizing the journey on the Milky Way) after the festival.

Below is a traditional Tanabata song:

Sasa no ha sara-sara
Nokiba ni yureru
Ohoshi-sama kira-kira
Kingin sunago
Goshiki no tanzaku
watashi ga kaita  …
Ohoshi-sama kira-kira
sora kara miteiru

Translation:

Bamboo leaves rustle,
swaying in the eaves.
Majestic stars glitter
on the gold and silver grains of sand.
On the five-color paper
I have written …
Glittering majestic stars,
are watching us from heaven.

Armand

Armand

Armand is the chief editor for Miyazaki Whispers and has lived in Japan since 2003. He has a graduate degree from University of California in Davis in systems science and has managed tech companies in US, UK and Sweden. Armand's interests are haiku, cross-cultural studies and surfing.
Armand
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Armand

About Armand

Armand is the chief editor for Miyazaki Whispers and has lived in Japan since 2003. He has a graduate degree from University of California in Davis in systems science and has managed tech companies in US, UK and Sweden. Armand's interests are haiku, cross-cultural studies and surfing.
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