Saturday, July 09, 2005

Tanabata: 七夕

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Ryu and big bro Kaito beneath the branches of their Tanabata tree.

Tanabata, Japan's version of the Chinese festival Pinyin, or “The Night of Sevens" (because it falls on the 7th day of the 7th month), celebrates the love between the stellar shepherd boy, Hikoboshi (Vega), and the Weaver Princess, Orihime (Altair). Although the shepherd boy was of lowly birth, the princess’ father, the Emperor of Heaven, worried that Orihime worked so hard weaving cloth for the gods that she had time to do little else, allowed them to be married. They were so in love, however, that they neglected their work and spent all of their time together.

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Ryu, holding his hand-made tanabata ornament.

Without the princess to weave their heavenly cloth, the gods were forced to wear the same thing over and over until they wore out. Without the herder to care for them, the flocks became sick. The emperor became so angry that he forced them to move to opposite banks of the River of Heaven, the Milky Way. They watched each other from afar as they tried to focus on their work, but their depression overcame them and they could do nothing. The king took pity on them, and promised to let them meet once a year if they worked as hard as they could.

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Ryu, Moe and I beneath the tree. Moe has been taking Nihon Buyou, or traditional Japanese dancing lessons, since she was 3. All the girls ( 6 Geisha) in the house are trained in dance.

At the chance of being together again, they began to work as hard as before. Every year on the 7th night of the 7th month, a magical bridge of magpies forms over the heavenly river, and the young lovers are able to meet. It is said that if it rains, the heavenly river overflows, and they must wait for their chance to meet again the following year.

Unfortunately for them, Tanbata falls right in middle of Tsuyu.

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Peek-a-boo! The geisha and the kids spent all week making these ornaments!

On Tanabata Eve I went to the Kamiya house (which just happens to be an Okiya, or Geisha house, albeit in good old inaka Ena) for our weekly English playtime. Infront of the house, proped up on the porch, was fresh, green bamboo tree, decorated in a rainbow of intricately folded origami and long, colorful strips of paper. Traditionally people would write their wishes for the star crossed lovers to be reunited, but nowadays people write their own wishes, in hopes that they will be granted. If the rain holds off and the lovers can meet, they believe their wish will come true, but if it rains, they, too, must wait till next year.

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Growing up in a Geisha house makes you tough!

Are you wondering if it rained? It's TSUYU! Of course it rained! No wish for you!


biffa said...

I like your geisha/kabuki pics.

Melissa said...

Thanks! There are alot more in the archives, and even more that I haven`t put up yet. I`m trying to figure out how to make a photo page for Geisha/ Maiko pix, but my technologically challenged mind can`t quite comprehend what that would entail. Anyone have any suggestions?