Tanabata – also known as the Star Festival – falls on Andrew’s birthday. Each year we have attempted to brave the heat and join the festivities at the Shitamachi festival in Asakusa.
The legend goes that Orihime (a weaving princess) and Hikoboshi (a cowherd), met and fell truly, madly, deeply in love with each other and eventually tied the knot. But, love — being the only thing on their minds — shifted their attention from work to each other, making them (in the eyes ot the others) lazy and demotivated. Orihime’s father, the king of the heavens, furious at their negligence of other important affairs, separated them, sending the two to the opposite sides of the Milky Way. Orihime became the star Vega and Hikoboshi, the star Altair.
Heartbroken Orihime cried her heart out day and night — which didn’t help much in getting her back on track, as her father had hoped. Moved by Orihime’s tears, the king agreed to allow the couple to meet only once a year — on July 7. And that is how Tanabata was born.
The festivities for us always includes lots of watermelon and cooling beverages, parades and giant paper lanterns. For the Japanese, it also includes the tradition of writing their wishes for the upcoming year on a small colourful piece of paper, to be hung on a bamboo branch.