Friday, April 22, 2011
Star Festival, Tanabata in Japan, is based on the Chinese legend of The Princess and the Cowherd. Princess Orihime was a devoted daughter who wove cloth for her father Tentei, the Sky King, on the bank of the river Amanogawa (the Milky Way). Recognizing her hard work, and her ensuing loneliness, Tentei arranged for Orihime to meet Hikoboshi, the Cowherd. The Princess and the Cowherd fell madly in love, and Orihime began to neglect her weaving, and Hikoboshi his cows. Angered, Tentei forced their separation from each other, relegating them to either side of the Amanogawa. Orihime continued her weaving, but passed each day in sadness, working, and missing Hikoboshi. Seeing her sadness, Tentei relented and allowed the couple to see each other once each year, on the 7th day of the 7th month.
There was no bridge, however. Orihime cried and cried, and finally a flock of magpies took pity on her and assembled a bridge of their wings for her to cross to meet Hikoboshi. It is said that on those nights that it rains, the magpies stay away (the stars of the Milky Way don't appear), and Orihime must wait another year before she can see her lover.
While other communities in Japan celebrate Tanabata in July, following the Gregorian calendar, Sendai follows the traditional lunar calendar, in which this year’s 7th day of the 7th month is August 6. Sendai’s is the quintessential Tanabata festival in Japan. Prime Minister Kan announced today that the people of Sendai would go on with the festival in spite of everything. Why not go and support them, and take in Morioka’s Sansa Odori Festival the same week?