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Experiencing Japan’s Tanabata Festival

Colourful paper strips with wishes on them - part of the Tanabatta festival

Lady Lever volunteer Corrina Ellis tells us about her experiences of the Japanese Tanabata Festival.

I lived and worked in Japan for 14 years – teaching at a University and various schools before I established my own small English language school with a Japanese colleague.

Tanabata is known as The Evening of the Seventh or The Star Festival and is usually celebrated on July 7th. The story goes that Orihime, the Weaving Princess, fell in love with the cowherd Hikoboshi (the Boy Star) and they married soon after.

Due to their love for each other they neglected their work and this angered her father Tentei, the Sky King, so he forbade them from meeting. Orihime begged her father to allow her to meet her husband. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed her to meet Hikoboshi once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month if she promised to work hard at her weaving again.

I think this story really reflects Japanese culture as there are many couples in Japan who are forced to live separately because of their work and save money for the time they get the chance to meet up.

During the Tanabata Festival it’s traditional to write a wish on a tanzaku or strip of paper and tie it to a bamboo tree at a Tanabata festival. Origami sonobe balls are made and the streets are decorated with streamers.

Corrina in Toide town celebrating the Tanabata Festival

Corrina in Toide town celebrating the Tanabata Festival

The Tanabata Festival I remember best is the one I went to in my last year in Japan and my ex-student took me there. We wrote our wishes on the tanzaku and I wished for my family to be happy and of good health always.

I remember admiring a mass of origami hanging from a branch on a tree and an elderly Japanese man explained that the origami had been made by people who were in a care home. I was touched by this. He was pleased that we were interested and invited us into his house where he had boxes upon boxes of sonobe balls. He asked us to choose our favourite to take home with us. I chose a tiny colourful ball which I brought back to Liverpool and gave to my sister to put over her then new-born baby’s cot. I hoped it would bring her baby good health and happiness.

Corrina will be volunteering at the Lady Lever Art Gallery on 8 July when we will be celebrating the Tanabata Festival with the Japan Society North West. Japanese craft will include origami, paper chains and a chance to make your own wish strips in our activity rooms, 1 – 4pm.

In our Main Hall there will also be a Japanese board demonstration from the North West British GO Association and a Japanese embroidery demonstration with Sandra MacFarlane from the Japan Society North West.

Don’t miss Edo Pop: Japanese prints, which brings 19th century Edo (now Tokyo) to life in an exhibition of 50 woodblock prints, on loan from local collector Frank Milner.

 

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