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How to Enjoy Star-viewing in Tokyo

Bontle is an exchange student at a university in Japan. She was walking to the station with her college friend Sho when she noticed colorful decorations on the street.

Bontle

What are those decorations for? I saw some similar things in my neighborhood too.
Sho
Those bamboo decorations are for the Tanabata festival. Do you know anything about Tanabata?

Bontle

No, I’ve never heard of it before.

Sho

Tanabata is a Japanese star festival and is held on July 7th every year. It is said that the Chinese legend of the Weaver (Orihime) and the Cowherd (Hikoboshi) was mixed with Japanese ancient religious customs and became a basis of this annual tradition. Besides China and Japan, stories and events similar to Tanabata are also found in Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, and other regions in their own versions.

Bontle

Can you tell me about the story of Orihime and Hikoboshi?

Sho

Orihime, who was a daughter of the God of Sky and also a skilled weaver, fell in love with a cowherd named Hikoboshi. The couple got married but wanted to stay together so much that they stopped working. The God became angry at the couple and separated them to the both sides of the river. Orihime is compared to Vega in the constellation Lyra and Hikoboshi is to Altair in the constellation Aquila. The Milky Way runs between these stars.

Bontle

So they were forced to be far apart from each other across the river.

Sho

Right. But the God of Sky saw both Orihime and Hikoboshi so heartbroken after the separation and decided to allow them to see each other once a year on the night of July 7.

Bontle

They have a date over the river once a year. Such a romantic story!

Sho

In Japan, people write wishes on strips of paper and hang them on bamboo along with other colorful ornaments.

Bontle

It’s like making a wish upon a star. Beautiful!

The story of the star festival reminded Bontle of a beautiful night sky in her home town.

Bontle
In Botswana where I grew up, you can see beautiful bright starts at night. If you go to the countryside, the night sky is full of starts that appear almost overflowing from the sky.

Sho

Sounds beautiful. I hope I get to see that someday.
Bontle
I suddenly started missing that beautiful starry sky of my home.

Sho

It is unfortunate that we don’t see stars very much in the big city like Tokyo as it is so bright even at night. To compensate, would you like to go to a planetarium together some time? There are many planetariums in Tokyo where you can enjoy great shows about the stars. They are no match for real stars, but the shows are presented along with special commentaries which are interesting to listen to.

Bontle

Sounds wonderful! I sure would like to go to one.
Sho
In fact there are a few planetariums in the vicinity of the TOKYO SKYTREE, a new landmark of the metropolitan city, including the one right at the bottom of the tower. Let’s make a plan for this weekend so that we can enjoy views of both the new tower and the beautiful starry sky.

Planetarium Guide / List of planetariums in Tokyo (information available in Japanese)
Planetarium Tenku in TOKYO SKYTREE TOWN (information available in Japanese)