Time to make a wish! It’s July 7, Tanabata in Japan. The basis of Tanabata (literally “night of the seventh”), or the Star Festival, is rooted in Chinese folklore.
As the story goes, Princess Orihime (the star Vega) weaved night and day, so much so that her father, the emperor of the galaxy, arranged for his workaholic daughter to meet Hikoboshi (the star Altair), a handsome cowherd. It was love at first sight, and the couple married immediately. Busy being a devoted wife, Princess Orihime soon neglected her weaving. This angered her father; first she was weaving too much, now she wasn’t weaving enough. The emperor separated the young lovers, sending Hikoboshi to the other side of the Amanogawa, or the Milky Way. Beside herself with loneliness, Princess Orihime cried and cried. Her tears began the rainy season. Her father couldn’t stand to see his daughter in this state, so he allowed her to visit her beloved one day a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month.
To honor Orihime and Hikoboshi, the Japanese write their wishes on thin strips of paper called tanzaku and hang them from bamboo branches. They wait for July 7 so that their dreams will come true.
The tale weaved its way into American pop culture last year in an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali refers to the story of Tanabata as “romantic astronomy.”
The Consulate-General of Japan in New York currently has a Tanabata exhibition.
Make a Wish! Tanabata Celebration
Through Friday, July 10
Japan Information Center – 299 Park Avenue (between 48th and 49th Streets), 18th Floor
Visitors can learn more about Tanabata and write your wish on tanzaku.
Japan Society is celebrating Tanabata with a special event on Sunday.
Tanabata: Japan’s Star Festival with Storytelling and Crafts
Sunday, July 12 at 2:00 p.m.
Japan Society – 333 E. 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
Tickets: $12/$5 Japan Society members (children 2 and under are free)
At this annual family program, Japan Society introduces the legend of Tanabata to children through storytelling by and craft making. As a part of Tanabata tradition, participants learn how to make paper ornaments and their own tanzaku to decorate bamboo branches.
To purchase tickets, please visit Japan Society’s website.