Tanabata: The Legend of Orihime and Hikoboshi

Princess Orihime weaved night and day, so much so that her father, the emperor of the galaxy, arranged for his workaholic daughter to meet a handsome cowherd named Hikoboshi. It was love at first sight, and the couple married immediately. Busy being a devoted wife, Princess Orihime neglected her weaving to the point that 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, beginning the rainy season with her tears. 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.

This legend is known as Tanabata, or the Star Festival. To honor the star-crossed lovers, 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 tradition of Tanabata is being observed at several places in New York City, so throw on your yukata and make a wish!

Kana Uemura, Ootoya, NYC, Japan, "Toilet no Kamisama," Tanabata

Ootoya Presents Kana Uemura Live

Saturday, July 8 from 3:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Ootoya Greenwich Village – 41 E. 11th Street (between Broadway and University Place)

Admission: Free

Japanese singer/songwriter Kana Uemura will perform a free concert at Ootoya’s Greenwich Village location as part of the homestyle restaurant’s Tanabata celebration.

Inspired by Julie Andrews’s performance in The Sound of Music, Uemura debuted in 2004. The 34-year-old is best known for her song “Toilet no Kamisama” (“Goddess of the Bathroom”), a ballad about her late grandmother. The song became a #1 hit in Japan in 2010, earning Uemura Japan Record Awards for Best Song and Best Songwriter.

For more information about Uemura’s performance, please visit Ootoya’s website.


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Amateur Astronomers Association of New York’s Tanabata Festival

Saturday, July 8 from 7:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.

Riverside Park – 116th Street Overlook

Admission: Free

The Amateur Astronomers Association of New York will partner with Japanese and Japanese American groups to hold the second annual star gazing Tanabata Festival. AAA members with telescopes will show guests the night sky and tell the folk tale of Princess Orihime and Hikoboshi, who are represented by the stars Vega and Altair, which are prominent in the summer sky.

Members from the Japanese American Association of New York (JAA), the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Japanese Americans and Japanese in America (JAJA) will hand out tanzaku, and guests can write their wishes, tying the tanzaku to the bamboo branches.

As it gets darker, Vega and Altair will appear and the other objects will be visible, including the moon and the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

For more information, please visit AAA’s website.


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Tanabata Illustration by Yukihiko Mitani © Kamishibai for Kids

Tanabata: Japan’s Star Festival

Sunday, July 9 from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Japan Society – 333 E. 47th Street (between First and Second Avenues)

Admission: $15/$8 members/Free children ages 2 and under

Japan Society explores the Tanabata legend through a shadow puppetry performance led by Kanako Hiyama in an interactive setting with joyful songs. Guests can create their own Milky Way stars, Hikoboshi and Orihime dolls, paper ornaments, and a tanzaku.

Healthy Japanese light meals, snacks, and festival-related refreshments will be available for purchase from BentOn.

Recommended for children ages 3-10 and accompanying adults. Space is limited; advance ticket purchase recommended. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit Japan Society’s website.