The Tanabata legend tells of two lovers, Hikoboshi (Altair star) and Orihime (Vega star), who are separated by the “river of the heavens” (Milky Way) and are only allowed to meet once a year, on the night of July 7.
This festival comes from China where they celebrated “Kikkoten“. There, people would pray to the star of Orihime for proficiency in skills such as needlework and calligraphy. This tradition traveled to Japan during the Nara Period and was combined with a Bon Festival event called Tanabata, which involved loom-weaving for ancestral spirits. This is said to be the origin of the Tanabata Festival in Japan.
“Kyo-no-Tanabata” or the Tanabata Festival of Kyoto, is a series of events held in various locations for several days in August, which is when Tanabata falls in the lunar calendar. The events are designed around the theme of “Wishes,” in honor of the tradition of “making a wish once a year.” These are a good opportunity to enjoy the tradition of Tanabata in true Kyoto style.
The Horikawa Site where I took these photos features a “Milky Way of Light,” replicating the beautiful Milky Way full of stars, and the “Yuzen Nagashi of Light,” which embellishes the Horikawa River with light and beautiful Yuzen silks. The event was not very crowded and was a good exercise in night photography.