Tanabata Celebrations in Kappabashi

Tanabata Celebrations in Kappabashi

Thursday, July 7th was the begininning of Tanabata, our first taste of Japanese Matsuri!

Tanabata is a Japanese star festival, it’s held on various days between July and August. It celebrates the(hopeful) meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, here’s the full story via Wikipedia:

“Orihime (織姫 Weaving Princess?), daughter of the Tentei (天帝 Sky King, or the universe itself?), wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (天の川 Milky Way, lit. “heavenly river”?). Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, Orihime was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi (彦星 Cow Herder Star?) (also referred to as Kengyuu (牽牛?)) who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and married shortly thereafter. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if she worked hard and finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.”

Considering it was a very rainy day, Orihime and Hikoboshi won’t have met this year 🙁 but that didn’t put a dampner on anyones spirits! Plenty of people were out braving the weather and having a good time.

Tanabata Celebrations in Kappabashi
The street was lined with stalls selling food & drink plus plenty of games for kid, fantastic colourful Kusudama hung down from the lamposts, each adorned with streamers representing the strings that Orihime uses to weave. Later in the afternoon, a large dance procession made it’s was down the street, and smaller dance and music performances happened throughout the day outside a shrine on Kappabashi-Dori. At one point the rain was coming down quite hard, but the performers all carried on regardless.

Tanabata Celebrations in Kappabashi
Emma got into the spirit by wearing her Yukata! There’s quite alot of tradition to each part of the Yukata, and it took a little while to get it all right, most important is to always fold the left side over the right – right over left is reserved for funerals!

Tanabata Celebrations in Kappabashi
People celebrate Tanabata by writing wishes on small pieces of paper know as tanzaku, and hang them on bamboo as pictured above, decorations are often added too. After the festival, the bamboo and wish papers are sometimes set afloat on a river or burned, the tradition varies around the country.

Despite the weather, Tanabata was great fun. I love how festivals carry so much meaning over here, and everything is steeped in such rich tradition.

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