Colorful Tanabata ornaments on display at the annual festival.
The color and creativity of the Tanabata Festival has been one the most viewed events of the Nisei Week Festival for years.
Everyone has the opportunity to be part of the excitement and pageantry of this event by making your own kazari — a paper star that flows in the wind. It will be presented as part the Los Angeles Tanabata Festival, the Southern California celebration of the larger festival held in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.
The entire event is inspired on the love story of a lowly cow herder and a beautiful young princess.
Over 2,000 years ago, according to Chinese folklore, two stars, Vega (a weaver) and Altair (a cow herder), fell in love and married. The Sky King, Vega’s father, was unhappy with the lovers for no longer carrying out their respective duties of weaving fabrics and tending to the herd, and he separated the lovers to opposite sides of the Milky Way river.
However, the Sky King allowed the lovers to meet for one night every year. On the evening of July 7, a flock of magpies link their wings together to form a bridge over the Milky Way to bring the couple together. If it rained, the magpies were not able to fly and the lovers would have to wait for another full year. “Earthlings” began writing wishes on pieces of paper (tanzaku) and hanging them on bamboo trees for clear skies on July 7.
“By creating a kazari, we celebrate the love of Orihime and Hikoboshi and the wish for a loving future,” event organizers said. “Each kazari is our earthly representation of a star in the Milky Way that can become our wish for something beautiful for us and our community. We can all participate and build our own kazari as well see all of the kazari and tanzaku created displayed on Aug. 19-20 in Little Tokyo. We can all be part of something beautiful.”
The kits, materials and instruction can be found on Saturdays at the Little Tokyo Koban, 307 E. First St. (near San Pedro Street) in Los Angeles, where you can register as well. Find additional information at www.TanabataLosAngeles.org.