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Cultural Festivals

Tanabata, the Star Festival

Photo by Jonathan Ley

Bring the whole family to this year’s celebration of the traditional Japanese Tanabata festival. Take part in traditional Tanabata customs like folding origami paper ornaments and writing wishes on colorful strips of paper called tanzaku. Enjoy Kamishibai storytelling with longtime friend of the Garden Michiko Kornhauser and the music of Tokyo-born guitarist Toshi Onizuka.

Tanabata History

Tanabata has its roots in a Chinese legend about the love between a young princess, Orihime, who was a weaver, and a handsome young cowherd named Kengyu. As a result of their great love for each other, the weaver neglected her work weaving cloth for the gods and the herdsman neglected his cattle. In punishment, Orihime’s father, the emperor of the heavens, moved the star-lovers to opposite sides of the Milky Way and stated that they would only be allowed to meet once a year: on the seventh day of the seventh month. On this night a flock of heavenly magpies use their wings to form a bridge that the weaver can cross to join her lover. The magpies will only make the bridge if July 7 is a clear night; if it rains, the lovers must wait another year.