Thursday, October 22, 2015

Carpe Diem #842 Tanabata Festival

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

As you have seen I don't have enough time this week to be on time with publishing, but I hope to do better the upcoming days ... so please be patient, time will be back at my side soon.
Today I have a well known Japanese Festival for you all to attend, Tanabata, in our rich history we have seen this festival several times already, because of the wonderful haiku Basho has written about this festival.
Credits: Tanabata Festival (July 7th)
On the seventh day of the seventh month, now celebrated on July 7, is Tanabata ("Star Festival"). This is the night once a year when the crow herder, the star Altair, crosses the Milky Way on a bridge of magpie wings to meet the weaver-girl, Vega, for a night of celestial love making. On a summer night, considered by the Japanese as the beginning of autumn, in this hemisphere, these are the two brightest stars seen directly overhead. If it rains the lovers cannot meet. Traditionally, on this evening people gather for outdoor picnics. Children of all ages make  wishes by writing them on strips of paper to be tied on bamboo bushes. The word uchuten is a compound word made by Basho incorporating "rain in the middle of heaven" and "ecstasy."
The festival was introduced to Japan by the Empress Kōken in 755. It originated from "The Festival to Plead for Skills" (Kikkōden), an alternative name for Qixi, which was celebrated in China and also was adopted in the Kyoto Imperial Palace from the Heian period.
The festival gained widespread popularity amongst the general public by the early Edo period, when it became mixed with various Obon or Bon traditions (because Bon was held on 15th of the seventh month then), and developed into the modern Tanabata festival. Popular customs relating to the festival varied by region of the country, but generally, girls wished for better sewing and craftsmanship, and boys wished for better handwriting by writing wishes on strips of paper. At this time, the custom was to use dew left on taro leaves to create the ink used to write wishes. Incidentally, Bon is now held on 15 August on the solar calendar, close to its original date on the lunar calendar, making Tanabata and Bon separate events. 
Credits: Tanabata
Tanabata was inspired by the famous Chinese folklore story, "The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd". Some versions were included in the Man'yōshū, the oldest extant collection of Japanese poetry.The most popular version is as follows:
Orihime (Weaving Princess), daughter of the Tentei (Sky King, or the universe itself), wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (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 (Cow Herder Star) 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.
What a gorgeous festival this must be according to Basho's haiku ... it was surely a wonderful festival full of love.
Tanabata no awanu kokoro ya uchuten
for the Star Festival
even when hearts cannot meet

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

do not even peer
through the leaves of the silk tree
light falls from the stars

tanabata -
autumn is truly here
as nights begin
© Basho (Tr. Chèvrefeuille)
Or this one, in which he (Basho) mentions lovers very strong:

sazo na hoshi   hijikimono ni wa   shika no kawa

surely star-lovers
using as a rug
a deer skin
© Basho

All great haiku inspired on Tanabata. It will not be easy to compose an all new haiku inspired on this Tanabata. Well ... here is my attempt to write a haiku inspired on Tanabata and the story about Orihime (Weaving Princess) and Hikoboshi (Cow Herder):

with tears in my eyes
I saw the blooming flowers
of the weeping cherry

© Chèvrefeuille
And now it is up to you my dear friends. This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until October 25th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, Tokushima Awa Odori, later on. For now ... have fun, be inspired and share.


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