Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tanabata Tutorial: 7 Ways To Wish Upon A Star

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7 types of Star Festival Decorations. Via.

According to an ancient legend, wishes come true during Tanabata, Japan's summer "Star Festival", which occurs every year on the seventh day of the seventh month (those following the lunar calendar observe in August, but people in the U.S. celebrate in July.) On that day, festival-goers write their wishes on a colorful piece of paper called tanzaku and tie it to a branch of a bamboo tree.

Although the legend varies slightly from region to region, it is celebrated all over Japan (and at Japan Society this Sunday!) The story goes that Hikoboshi, the star of Altair, and Orihime, the star of Vega, are two lovers separated by the Milky Way. Orihime was a skilled weaver, but because she spent most of her time weaving, she had no time to love. Her father, Emperor Tentei, saw how sad she was about this and arranged a marriage for her with Hikoboshi. But now Orihime had no time to weave because of her newfound love, so Tentei forbid the two from seeing each other, except for one day a year as long as they wished hard enough every other day. Tanabata celebrates the lovers’ reuniting.

Seven is the magic number for Tanabata, so there are seven types of decorations with special significance:
Tanzaku - wishes for academic success and technical skills.

Kinchaku - shaped like a purse, this decoration is a wish for success with money.

Kamigoromo - shaped like a tiny Kimono, this is for better sewing skills, success with style.

Toami - the net papers, these represent success for good fishing and harvest.

Orizuru - a chain of paper cranes, if you hang these you wish for good health and a long life.

Kuzukago - the trash net, this indicates wishes for cleanliness and thriftiness with money.

Fukinagashi - these aren’t really wishes, they are colorful streamers that represent the fabric Orihime wove.
Click here for a cute manga explaining the decorations and the legend. Our own About Japan teaching rwesource ebsite has some simple Tanabata activity and craft-making guides you can do at home or at school.

Japan Society's Tanabata observance includes interactive, family-friendly activities and an opportunity to hang your own tanzaku on Japan Society's bamboo trees. The event is recommended for children 3-10 and their accompanying adults, but couldn’t we all use a wish or two? Happy Tanabata!

--Sarah Anderson


(UPDATED 7/14/13)

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