Today (July 7th) is the Japanese festival "Tanabata" 七夕— or Star Festival. It is a festival of literal star crossed lovers with a somewhat... questionable backstory.
The story dates back to more than 2000 years ago. It goes that two deity lovers -- Orihime and Hikoboshi-- can only meet once a year on this day. The two are separated by the entire Milky Way and are only permitted to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month -- July 7th. Although, if you use the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar this could be on August 7th. Orihime is represented by the star Vega and Hikoboshi is Altair. The story is one of true patriarchy in the way that only ancient folktales can be. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Orihime. Orihime used to weave beautiful cloth for her father, but because she was too busy weaving all day long she could not meet a man and fall in love. Her father, being a good guy, set her up with a man— Hikoboshi the cow herder— and the two fell instantly in love. Yay love! Of course because she was so busy being in love and making the googly eyes at Hikoboshi, Orihime couldn’t weave all the cloth her father wanted and he was not down with that. So he banished them to never be able to see each other again (super good guy, this father). Seeing how sad this made his daughter he did what any reasonable loving father would do and allowed them to meet one day a year (only if she was finished with her weaving obvi). So, on the seventh day of the seventh month, the galaxy aligns for the two to meet. However, it is said that if it rains on this day then the two will not be able to meet. Which really sucks for them because July 7th happens to be right in the middle of rainy season (I’m inclined to blame good guy father for this one too). What a lovely story. An article in the Japan Times called Tanabata 'The Day When Love Prevails". Based on this story, I'm not so sure if that's the right tagline.
Despite the sort of sketchy back story that goes along with the festival, Tanabata is a very beautiful celebration. It is a celebration of love, wishes, and hope. One of the main customs involves tying wishes to big bamboo sticks. These are called “tanzaku”. “In some regions these bamboo sticks and wishes are set afloat on a river or burned after the festival. The festival is closely tied to many Obon traditions (post about Obon here). In some large cities across Japan, big festivals are held with parades, fireworks, and decoration competitions. In tiny Goto, outside shops and along the main shopping arcade, bamboo and paper streamers are set up. I walked around reading some of the wishes the children of Goto shared and some were quite good. I’ve shared a few of my favourites.