Star festival in Japan is also known as Tabanata. Tabanata is a Chinese word meaning evening of the seventh; hence, its origin is traced to China. Tabanata is an important festival in Japan where Japanese value it very much and it is commemorated once a year on the seventh day in either July or august, according to the lunisolar calendar. Tabanata festival is celebrated or performed at night on 7 July in accordance to their culture (Anesaki & Ferguson, 1928).
Most people in Japan either celebrate the day at home or school depending on someone’s program on that day. For example, most students are in school at this time China and Japan; hence, they celebrate it at school since it is convenient for them while the parents and those at home can celebrate in their villages. All the Japanese cities, towns, schools, and villages hold the festival and there are special Tanabata decorations displayed in all streets and major building in all regions. In some places and regions of the country, most people light the lantern lamps and float on the river, streams or even float the bamboo leaves on the river (Shōzō & Kenkichi 1950).
History of the star festival or Tanabata
The star festival also known as Tanabata is traced back to more than 2000 years ago with a tale called Kikkoden. It is associated and linked to a legend that the Weaver Star (Vega) and Cowherd Star (Altair) that were separated or made apart by the Milky Way. These two were allowed to meet only once in July of the lunisolar calendar year on the seventh month (Boger, 2009).
Once upon a time, there was a weaver princess who was called Orihime and a cow herder prince called Hikoboshi. One day, they were playing all the time when they got together and they forgot their jobs as assigned by the king. When the king heard this, he was hungry and furious about both of them for failing to perform as expected. The king out of his anger decided to separate them on the opposite sides of river Amanogawa also known as Milky Way. The king only allowed them to meet once a year on 7 July. He made this ruling so as to allow them not to forget their jobs. This day was then celebrated every year because it was seen as very important for the two to meet after one year of not meeting one another (Boger, 2009).
From that time (2000 years ago), have celebrated by Japanese. They write their wishes on a narrow strip of the colored papers and hang them on their walls along with other paper ornaments for commemoration. Other writings were made on the trees, bamboo branches that were placed in the backyard or entrances of their houses for them to be seen by all people. People them start praying hard by fasting and singing so that their desires and wishes come true. The most common and popular decorations and ornaments are the colorful streamers and woven threads. The streamers are believed to have been used so as to symbolize the weaving of threads, which were considered important (Anesaki & Ferguson, 1928).
The other common types of decorations were the casting net (Taomi). The casting net in Japanese means good luck for farming and fishing. There was also a bag known as Kinchaku, which means wealth. All these decorations were considered important and were proposed by the king to be decorated nicely in order to be unique (Boger, 2009).
Because the Tanabata festival is thought to have started in china in more than 2000 years ago, it believed and it is in the history records to have been transmitted to Japan during the feudal period. The decorations were combined with the traditional local customs so as to become an official annual event at the king’s imperial court (Boger, 2009). The festival was unique and different regions and localities were made to develop their own distinctive ways of celebrating the event.
Depending on the regions and cultures of different people, the king accepted that the star festival or the Tanabata to be celebrated either on 7th July or 7th August which around the seventh month in the lunar solar calendar in Japan. It is fun to work along the streamers on the streets because it commemorates a period and a time of reconciliation and coming together as the loved ones. It is the time for renewing the relation as per king first speech when this festival was celebrated (Anesaki & Ferguson, 1928).
The Tanabata or star festivals are well known in Sendai-city, Kanagawa prefecture, Hiratsuka-city, and Miyagi prefecture because of how they value and celebrate it. They prepare for it in advance; hence attracting millions of people or visitors from all over the world every year (Shōzō & Kenkichi 1950).
Significance of the celebration
The significance of the Tanabata celebration has been explained in a told legend available in more than one version. One common version is that Orihime, the weaving princes, or the universe that was used to weave beautiful cloths by the bank of Amanagawa, the heavenly river otherwise called the Milky Way. Her father treasured the woven cloths and this motivated Orohime to weave, working very hard (Casal, 1967).
However, because of her too much engagement in weaving, she could not get a husband and this making her sad. Her father, Tentei getting concerned too organized Hikoboshi, a Cow Herder Star to meet her daughter. Hokoboshi lived on the other side of the Amanagawa. When Hikoboshi and Orihime finally met, they instantly fell in love and married shortly thereafter.
Following their marriage, Orihime could not continue weaving cloths for her father, Tentei and Hikoboshi left his cows to wander all over heaven cows all the other hand. Tentei got infuriated, decided to separate the two lovers, and forbade them to meet (Shōzō, and Kenkich, 1950).
Moved by his daughter’s tears, Tentei allowed the two lovers to meet which first happened on the month and during the seventh day. This meet was on conditioned that Orihime finished the weaving of the cloths. During their first attempt to meet, the two lovers could not meet since there was no bridge to connect/link one side of Amanagawa to the other (Brown, & Brown, 2006).
How it is celebrated today
Today, the Japanese people celebrate the day as a big festival with people making wishes in songs or in poems, or on small pieces of papers and displaying them on bamboo. When the bamboo is decorated with lots of wishes, the wishes are a floated in a river or burned at the end of the festival, just around the midnight of the next day (Casal, 1967). Like the Obon celebrations, the customs of floating paper resembles in the two festivals. During the Obon, floating paper ship and candles are floated paper on rivers during Obon festivals.
Tanabata celebrations come with certain traditional songs. The festivals are never complete until Japanese community member’s respect and honor the festival with Tanabata songs. Almost every section of Japan, have come up with their separate set of their own Tanabata civilizations, which are related mostly with the Obon local traditions (Casal, 1967)
The translation of the gospels has the words: “The bamboo leaves rustle, shaking away in the eaves. The stars twinkle; Gold and silver grains of sand” (Shōzō, and Kenkich, 1950). The original date for celebrating Tanabata by the Japanese was based on their lunisolar calendar, which lags a month behind the ordinary calendar. For this reason, some places in the Japan hold some the festival’s celebrations on July 7th. Some other regions hold it around August 7th. The coming year’s celebrated dated are used predicted usually in advance (Brown, & Brown, 2006). Many places still hold large-scale festivals for Tanabata celebrations most commonly on shopping malls, streets where these places are colorfully decorated with large streamers. Kanto town of Japan, hold its Tanabata celebrations around July 7 in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa. The most famous Tanabata Celebrations are for 6 to s of August at Sendai. Other towns outside Japan that hold Tanabata include Sao Paulo and Brazil who normally conducts theirs on the first weekend of July (Brown, & Brown, 2006).
There are some variations forms region to region about the event during the Tanabata celebrations. In some regions, events include games, parades, and Miss Tanabata contests. Selling food in stalls is almost a common phenomenon across all regions. In Tokyo, the festival features greeting parades of Minnie as Vega and Mickey (Altar) (Nicol, 1997).
During the 34th G8 Conferences, its date coincided with Tanabata celebrations. The Japanese Prime minister invited the leaders who were participating in the summit to participate in the Tanabata festivals. These leaders were asked to write down their wishes and hang them on a bamboo tree, and take work toward making the worlds a better place to live in (Brown, & Brown, 2006).
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