Japanese traditional Tanabata matsuri
Field 2008, Field Journal, Japan Culture facts, Japan Travel Tips

Tanabata 七夕: the night of the loving stars

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July the 7th is the Japanese night of the lovers reunion, the night in which the Weaving Princess and the Cow Herder can finally cross the Amanogawa river – the Milky Way – and meet again.

Tanabata Festival Tokyo

Tanabata Festival in Tokyo – Wikipedia


Love in the Milky Way

The popular Tanabata (七夕 “Evening of the seventh”) matsuri that takes place on July 7th originates from a Chinese festival, the Qixi Festival 七夕節, and are both inspired to the legend of the love story between a cow herder and a weaver girl.

As the legend goes, Orihime 織姫 (in JapaneseWeaving Princess”) wove beautiful by the bank of the river Amanogawa 天の川 (literally, “heavenly river”, the Milky Way) to please her father Tentei 天帝, the Sky King. Seeing her daughter sad because of her hard work, Taitei arranged for her a meeting with Hikoboshi 彦星 (or Kengyū 牽牛), a cow herder living on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the Orihime and Hikoboshi met, they fell instantly in love and got married immediately; after the marriage, however, Orihime would no longer weave cloth for her father and the cow herder allowed his cows to wander around. Enraged, the Sky King decided to separate the lovers on the two different sides of the Amanogawa river, forbidding them to meet; however, moved by his daughter sadness, Tentei allowed the two lovers to meet again once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month. When they tried to meet the first time, though, they couldn’t find a way to cross the Amanogawa, since there was no bridge; in despair, the Weaving Princess cried so hard that a flock of magpies came and make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river.

Did you know this legend? Did you ever attend a summer matsuri in Japan? Let me know in the comments, or feel free to use the form below

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