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  • 執筆者の写真April Dykes

Tanbata: The Star Festival - Kikkoden

Tanbata: The Star Festival - Kikkoden

Tanabata, also known as the star festival, is celebrated in most places on the seventh of July.  During this festival, it is common to write your wish on a colorful piece of paper and tie it to a bamboo tree.  However, there’s more to this day than your wishes and desires; it’s about the two lovers, Princess Orihime and Hikoboshi.  Think of Romeo and Juliet, except no one dies, but they are separated and only allowed to meet on July 7th if the skies are clear.  Let’s dig into the history of this holiday.

Tanabata, originally called Kikkoden, The Festival to Plead for Skills, is based on Qixi.  Qixi introduces the Chinese legend of Princess Orihime and her lover Hikoboshi.  According to the legend, Princess Orihime, the daughter of the God of the heavens, was a seamstress.  She was a fantastic seamstress and worked hard, but something was missing from her life: love.  She meets Hikoboshi, a cow herder from the other side of the Milky Way.  They fell in love and got married.  They were so in love that soon, nothing else mattered outside of their relationship.  That also included their duties: Princess Orihime’s weaving and Hikoboshi’s herding.  Though the legend doesn’t say how long this goes on, it was enough for the God of the heavens to become angry.  

They were sent back to their original sides of the Milky Way and forbidden to see each other.  Princess Orihime begged her father to be with her husband again, so he gave a compromise.  If they worked hard at their jobs while apart, they would be able to see each other once a year.  This next part has many variations, but it is the most popular one in Japan.  The Milky Way was too difficult for the lovers to cross, but with the help of magpies, Princess Orihime could go to her husband.  Magpies use their wings yearly to create a bridge for Princess Orihime, but only if the weather is good.  If it rains, the magpies will not come, and the two lovers must wait another year to see each other.  

On Tanabata, writing any wish you may have on a colorful piece of paper called tanzaku is a tradition.  That wish is then tied to the branch of a bamboo tree displayed on streets, supermarkets, stations, etc.  Festival celebrations can range from parades with food stalls to dances.  Each tanzaku color has a meaning.  

According to The Gate, 

red represents gratitude towards your parents and ancestors, 

blue represents courtesy and manners, 

yellow represents friendship, 

white represents duty and responsibility, 

and black/ purple represents academics.

What color Tanzaku would you use to write your wish on?

  • Red

  • Blue

  • Yellow

  • White

So, if you’re in Japan, find a Tanabata festival near you, grab a tanzaku, and make a wish. While you are making a wish for yourself, also make a wish for someone you know who may need it! A little kindness goes a long way!

Show us your Tanabata pictures by tagging us! @givingtuesdayjp or @givingtuesdayjapan and #GivingTuesdayJP, #GivingTuesdayJapan


This has more information about the decorations 




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