Star Festival

The seventh night of the seventh month (July 7) is Tanabata, or the “Star Festival” in Japan. This festival originates with an ancient story imported from China in the eighth century. According to legend, the two lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by stars Altair and Vega, are separated by the Milky Way and can only meet once a year. 

Orihime, once a hardworking weaver, and Hikoboshi, once a hardworking cowherd, neglected their work altogether after falling in love and getting married. This so angered Orihime’s father that he banished them to separate sides of Amanogawa (Heaven’s River, the Milky Way) and forbade them to see one another. Distraught, Orihime pleaded with her father to let her be with her beloved husband again. Orihime’s father then allowed the two lovers to meet once a year on July 7. 

Thus July 7 came to symbolize the fulfillment of wishes, and nowadays during the Tanabata festival, people write their wishes on colorful strips of paper and hang them on bamboo branches. Wishes are usually written in prose, but there is also a tradition of writing them as poems. Following is my Tanabata poem-wish.

七夕・Star Festival

on the seventh of the seventh
i wish for a river raft
for my love and i to sail the starry skies
—not for a one night rendezvous
across a river three hundred and sixty four days wide—
rather i wish
each and every night be
a festival of dreams and of desires
dancing into light
and dawning
each and every new day

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