Wednesday, July 14, 2010
In Japan the seventh day of the seventh month brings the festival of Tanabata, celebrating the meeting of the stars Altair and Vega in the sky.
There is a folktale describing the origins of the festival. Orihime (Vega) was the daughter of the Sky King. She sat by the banks of the heavenly river, the Milky Way, and wove cloth all day. She worked so hard, that she never had time to meet or love anybody. Her father wanted his daughter to be happy, and introduced her to Hikoboshi (Altair), a cow herder who worked on the other side of the river. The two fell in love and were married right away, but once happily married Orihime stopped weaving and Hikoboshi stopped tending his cows, who wandered willy nilly around the heavens.
The Sky King couldn't let this continue, and separated the happy lovers with the Milky Way. Orihime was distraught to be apart from her true love, and so her father allowed them to meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month.
The modern Tanabata is a bit of a date night, and mostly an excuse to get dressed up in yukata (light, cotton kimono made for summer wear) and eat lots of wonderful festival food. I looked into buying a yukata, but UniQlo didn't stock any men's styles this year, and the specialty yukata shop's wares were 150 bucks, which is a bit steep for something I may wear once or twice a year.
So I put on street clothes, grabbed my umbrella, and headed downtown to stuff myself on overpriced street food. I went with a lot of options I'd never tried before, including a mochi- potato creation with salt and butter, a Chinese flat bread like the ones I enjoyed so much in China, and a ramen burger, which was a creation of fried ramen noodle 'buns' with pork, fish cake, cabbage and ramen broth sauce. It was all amazing!