Tanabata

What did Japan wish for at this year’s Tanabata festival?

What did Japan wish for at this year’s Tanabata festival?

Held each year on July 7, the Tanabata festival has its roots in the folktale of a young married couple, symbolized by two stars in the night sky, who toil away at their trades separately, able to meet just once a year. It’s a little like the situation in many Japanese families where the husband gets transferred by his company to another prefecture and his wife stays behind to continue her own career or look after the kids. Just replace “office workers” with “cowherd and daughter of the king of heaven” and “prefectural border” with “the Milky Way,” and you’ve got a close approximation.

The story of the two lovers finally being able to see each other has taken on a broader connotation of wishes coming true, and Tanabata is commonly celebrated by writing a wish down on strip of paper, then tying it to a stalk of bamboo.

Department stores and shopping centers usually have displays where visitors post their wishes. Since they’re then on display for others to see, you can get a glimpse of current trends by checking them out. “My family’s safety,” “success in business,” and “health” are three old-standbys of Tanabata wishes, but what else were people hoping for this year?

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Tanabata 2013: Lucky Hokkaido residents have front row seats at lovers’ rare meeting

Tanabata 2013: Lucky Hokkaido residents have front row seats at lovers’ rare meeting

Written with the kanji characters 七 and 夕, Tanabata literally means ‘seventh evening’, and according to Japanese legend is the one day of the year that the young couple Orihime and Hikoboshi are permitted to meet, otherwise separated by the great 天の川 (Ama no Gawa, lit. river of the heavens). And it just so happens that some lucky star gazers in Hokkaido were granted front row seats.

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Japanese drink maker investigates the effectiveness of tying your wishes to bamboo

Japanese drink maker investigates the effectiveness of tying your wishes to bamboo

On 7 July, Tanabata kicks off in many parts of Japan. It’s an annual festival season which celebrates the stars Orihime and Hikoboshi, two lovers who are separated by the Milky Way except for this brief moment on the seventh day of the seventh month.

A popular custom during this time for young and old is to write down a wish on a strip of paper and hang it from a bamboo plant. However, as the years go by it seems that fewer and fewer people are going out to make wishes. This is why Calpis Co. Ltd. has decided to spark up interest in bamboo wishes by launching a study of their effectiveness.

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The Beautiful Paper Lanterns of Akita’s Tanabata Edoro Festival

The Beautiful Paper Lanterns of Akita’s Tanabata Edoro Festival

For the nights of August 5-7, the streets of Yuzawa, Akita prefecture, are illuminated with the soft glow of ukiyo-e-esque paintings on paper lanterns for the Tanabata Edoro (Picture Lantern) Festival, a 300-year-old festival that takes place near JR Yuzawa station during Tanabata every year.

Akita is known for having some of the most beautiful women in Japan and the hand-painted paper lanterns do the prefecture justice, portraying illustrations of beautiful Japanese women, often in seductive poses.

Take a look at some of the lanterns from previous years below:

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