July 7 is Tanabata in Japan, a day for making wishes and hanging them on bamboo trees.
Tanabata is based on a legend that goes something like this. A long time ago, Ten-kou, the god of the sky had a daughter called Orihime who spent her time weaving cloth for the gods. Ten-kou was worried because his daughter did nothing but work every day so he introduced her to Hikoboshi Kengyu, who spent all his time taking care of cows. When they met, they fell in love and soon spent all their time together. As a result, all the cows became sick and when the gods’ clothing wore out, there was no new cloth to make more. This made Ten-kou very angry so he took Orihime away to the other side of the river Amanogawa (the Milky Way) and wouldn’t allow the lovers to meet anymore. This made them so sad that they were unable to work. Eventually, Ten-kou felt so sorry for them that he decided to allow them to meet once a year on July 7 as long as they worked hard the rest of the year. Traditionally people hoped that the sky would be clear on that day so that the lovers could meet over the Milky Way. If it rained, the water level of the river Amanogawa would rise and they would be unable to cross. Originally people made this wish by writing it on a piece of paper and hanging it on a bamboo tree. Nowadays, people write their own wishes instead. Though adults sometimes participate, these days it is largely an activity for children.
When the Tanabata tradition came up for discussion in some of Richard’s adult classes this week, he was told that this weekend there would be a Tanabata festival on the street where our closest MIL school is located but we didn’t know when or where. We worked yesterday and went to church today. As usual, we stayed for lunch and visited for quite awhile after church then did a bit of shopping before heading for home. We didn’t really consider trying to take in the street festival because we thought it was likely a midday activity and that we had probably missed it. Since we’d had a big lunch after church and it was such a warm day, we decided to forgo cooking dinner at home, pick up a few goodies at the bakery and go to the park for a picnic supper. Before we headed out, I felt prompted to take the camera with us. At first, I ignored the thought but as we were leaving, I once again felt that I was being told to take it. I’ve learned to listen to these promptings and so it went into the bag.
After picking up our dinner at the bakery, we headed for the park but as we got close, we could see bright lights and crowds of people a little further up the street. We decided to investigate and soon found ourselves in the middle of the Tanabata street festival! For several blocks, booths were set up along the sidewalk. Games of chance and booths selling all sorts of ready to eat foods were the main attractions. The sidewalk was a slow moving river of humanity. Many of the young girls were decked out in yukata (summer kimono) and everyone was in a festive mood. We quickly decided that our bakery goods would last until tomorrow and filled up on okinomiyaki, which might best be described as a Japanese omelet, and takoyaki, balls of batter covered octopus.
One of the side streets was blocked off and in the intersection, a musical group featuring a young female singer with a beautiful voice was entertaining the crowd. Though her pronunciation was somewhat difficult to understand, she was singing English songs. When she started into the Tennessee Waltz, we couldn’t resist the urge. Spotting an open space behind the group, we slipped into it, dropped our bags and enjoyed a dance before sliding back into the crowd and continuing on our way!