Katherine:Hello, I just saw a lot of bamboo branches with colorful decorations put out on the shopping street. What are they for?

Manager of L'ESPACE Community Center:They are for a festival called Tanabata on July 7. Our L'ESPACE Town is holding a special event to celebrate the festival.

Katherine:What is the Tanabata festival like?

Manager:Tanabata is an annual festival that has been a long tradition in Japan. It is based on a legendary love story between Orihime and Hikoboshi, who are said to have a date once a year on this day above the Milky Way. To celebrate, people write their wishes on colorful paper strips called tanzaku and hang them on bamboo branches.

Katherine:Having a date above the Milky Way? Interesting. Can you tell me more about their love story?


[ Legend of Tanabata ]

The King of Heaven had a daughter named Orihime, who was a talented, hard-working weaver. The King was worried about his daughter since all she did was weaving. He decided to have her meet a young man named Hikoboshi, who was a cow herder and lived on the other side of the Milky Way. The two immediately fell in love and got married. As their romance became passionate, however, both Orihime and Hikoboshi started neglecting their jobs, which made the King really angry. After being separated by the King to each side of the Milky Way, Orihime and Hikoboshi regretted their act and began working hard again. The King felt sorry for the heartbroken couple and decided to allow them to meet once a year. In the night of July 7, the two will be guided by a magpie to the Milky Way and enjoy the date. If it rains on that day, however, the water of the Milky Way rises and prevents them from seeing each other.

Katherine:How romantic! It is a bit sad, though.

Manager:It sure is.

Katherine:So this is a love story in the sky.

Manager:Right. The legend of Tanabata is believed to have originated in ancient China. Orihime star, or a guardian star for weavers, is considered today's Vega in the constellation Lyra, and Hikoboshi star, or a guardian star for farmers, is Altair in the constellation Aquila. These two stars appear on the sides of the Milky Way and become brightest around July 7, and this is supposedly how the Tanabata story was born.

Katherine:People in ancient times must have had a great imagination to create such a romantic story by looking at stars in the sky.

Manager:I agree. It is said that the tradition of the Tanabata festival in Japan is based on this Chinese ancient legend, which was later combined with Japan's native religious beliefs. Similar stories are found in various parts of Asia and even in Europe.

Katherine:I didn't know that.

Manager:To celebrate the festival, we write wishes on tanzaku strips and make various paper ornaments to decorate bamboo branches.

Katherine:I saw many beautiful ornaments on the bamboo branches on the streets of L'ESPACE Town.

Manager:We are inviting visitors to the Community Center to write their wishes on a tanzaku for our Tanabata decoration. Would you like to try one?

Katherine:Sure! What kind of wishes should I make?

Manager:Anything is fine.

Katherine:Is the Tanabata festival commonly held nationwide?

Manager:Yes. Among many Tanabata festivals throughout the country, the ones in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture and Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture are especially large and famous. In Tokyo, the one in Asagaya is known as well.

・Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival: July 4 (Fri.) - July 7 (Mon.)
・Sendai Tanabata Festival: Aug. 6 (Wed.) - Aug. 8 (Fri.)
・Asagaya Tanabata Festival: Aug. 6 (Wed.) - Aug. 10 (Sun.)

Information on above websites only available in Japanese

Katherine:It looks like some Tanabata festivals are held in August. Why?

Manager:It depends on which calendar they follow. The one in July is based on the today's solar calendar, while the one in August is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, which was formerly used in Japan. There is about a month difference between two calendars.

Katherine:I see. So, this means that if Orihime and Hikoboshi miss their date in July because of the rain, the couple still has a chance to meet in August!

Manager:That's right. I bet they are happy about that.

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