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Tanabata-sai (Tanabata Festival) 七夕祭
Tanabata-sai (Tanabata Festival) 七夕祭


Tanabata-saiTanabata-sai2Tsurugaoka Hachimangu holds historical records of Tanabata rituals held in the early Edo period.
During Tanabata week, the Lower Worship Hall is surrounded with votive tablets and paper slips (called tansaku) in the shape of mulberry leaves on which people have inscribed their prayers. The main shrine buildings and the Lower Worship Hall are decorated with traditional ornaments for this festival and with bamboo grass. On the evening of 7th July, special  seasonal vegetables, musical instruments and rolls of dyed silk are dedicated, based on historical records of Tanabata rituals dating back to the early Edo period (1603-1867). Sacred dances are performed by the shrine maidens in this ritual, with prayers for the strenghtening of the relationship between the people and the kami, and between the people themselves.


The Tanabata festival, meaning the Evening of the Seventh, is a Japanese star festival, which is said to have been imported into Japan from China in 755 A.D. There are many versions of the folklore story, but the following is the most popular.


Orihime ( 織姫 ,  Weaving Princess), daughter of the Tentei (天帝, Sky King, or the universe itself), wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (天の川, Milky Way, lit. "heavenly river"). Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, Orihime was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi (彦星, Cowherd Star) (also referred to as Kengyuu (牽牛)) who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and married shortly thereafter. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if she worked hard and finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.


※Kami (the Japanese word for Shinto deities or sacred beings)

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