Tanabata 七夕 Decoration in Kyoto 京の七夕
If you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, and you love to celebrate Valentine’s Day with him/her, then Japan can be a very exciting place for you! Because…
it has another Valentine’s Day – Tanabata 七夕 🙂
(If you love your partner, everyday is Valentine’s Day though :P)
Today, I would like to show you how Tanabata is celebrated in Kyoto.
Tanabata 七夕 in Kyoto
What is Tanabata 七夕?
Tanabata (七夕, meaning “Evening of the seventh”) is a Japanese star festival, originating from the Chinese Qixi Festival. It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively).
According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. The date of Tanabata varies by region of the country, but the first festivities begin on July 7 of the Gregorian calendar. The celebration is held at various days between July and August.
The story of Tanabata
Once upon a time, when the sky was ruled by Tentei (天帝, Sky King, or the universe itself), there lived a weaving girl – Orihime, the daughter of Tentei, by the bank of the Amanogawa (天の川, Milky way, lit. “heavenly river”). Orihime wove beautiful clothes. Her father loved the clothes and she worked very hard everyday to weave it.
However, Orihime was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged her to meet Hikoboshi (彦星, Cow Herder Star, also refferred to as Kengyuu 牽牛) who lived and worked on opposite side of the Amanogawa.
“You two, work hard everyday. Hikoboshi, I would like to arrange a marriage between you and my daughter, Orihime, would you agree?”
“My lord, It is a dream for the likes of me. I would be more than happy to accept your arrangement.”
When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and married shortly thereafter. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi no longer would feed his cows that they died one after another.
In anger, Tentei seperated the two lovers across the Amanogawa and forbade them to meet. Orihime was despondent at the loss of her husband and begged her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by her daughter ‘s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if she worked hard and finished her weaving.
The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the Amanogawa because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river.
It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.
Tanabata in Kyoto 京の七夕
There several ways to celebrate Tanabta in Japan such as holding a Tanabata festival where people dance and march on the street with colorful decorations.
In Kyoto, there were special light arts decorations around some travel spots such as Kamogawa river (鴨川), Nijo-jo (二条城), Horikawa (堀川) and etc.
I went to the Kamogawa river and Horikawa river decorations. Here are some photos how Kyoto city celebrates Tanabata. Hope you can enjoy the atmosphere of the Japanese Valentine’s day with me from the photos. 🙂