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Tanabata celebration promotes a heavenly wish

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 1999-07-09

July 7 marks “Tanabata,” the Star Festival in Japan. Originally a part of Chinese mythology, the tale of Tanabata involves the romance of a young couple, the Princess star, “Orihime” or Vega, and the boy star, “Hikoboshi,” or Altair, who are separated by the two banks of the Milky Way and allowed to reunite only on the evening of July 7.

On the day before “Tanabata,” the Japanese express best wishes by writing on a piece of colored paper and tying it to the branches of bamboo trees found in front of the house. It is believed that prayers uttered and hanged on bamboo trees on the evening of “Tanabata” will be granted. It appears, however, that today’s society feels less inclined to celebrate this celestial event. Yet, for some the belief is as clearly evident today as it was decades past.

And it shows with the “Tanabata Matsuri (Festival)” held annually in Okinawa City, an event where true believers can experience the feeling and emotion of “Tanabata.”

The Goya Shopping District is one such believer and will hold a "Tanabata Matsuri” at four shopping centers, including “Ichiban-gai” and “Park Avenue.” This year, the event will be held until Sunday July 11. During the festival, shops along the arcade will display more than 60 colorfully decorated bamboo trees.

On the 11th, live acoustic music performances from 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. and family-oriented shows (from 7:30 p.m.) have been scheduled.

The main event of the evening is the Yukata Beauty Contest (Summer Kimono Beauty Contest) from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The contest offers some wonderful prizes, such as a diamond necklace and an overnight stay for two at the Laguna Garden Hotel.

Contestants will vie for the titles of Miss Tanabata, Miss Orihime (Princess Ori), Miss Amanogawa (Milky Way) while a small token of appreciation will be given to all those entering the contest.

Those who are interested in joining the Yukata Beauty Contest, fill out a form found at the “Ichiban-gai” office, located on the second floor adjoining the clothing shop “Space 1” inside the “Ichiban-gai” shopping arcade, one day before the contest. (English is not spoken here. So I recommend to bring a friend conversant in Japanese to help you out.)

The contest is open to any female up to 16 years of age. All entrees should assemble by 5 p.m. at the stage on the 11th. Rental for Yukata will not be available, so please bring your own.

For those who wish to experience the true feeling of the Star Festival, bamboo trees to hang your wishes on are placed at two locations inside the “Ichiban-gai.”

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