July 7, 2009


A bamboo tree decorated with paper chains to celebrate Tanabata (July 7th), on display in a Shibuya preschool. The custom is to write your wishes on pieces of rectangular paper called tanzaku and tie them onto the branches. I guess the teachers were too busy to take dictation from dozens of three-year-olds. A celebration of literally star-crossed lovers (a couple live on opposite sides of the Milky Way, and are allowed to meet only once a year, on July 7th), Tanabata has managed to escape the vast commercialization of that other romantic day, St. Valentine's. It has retained its traditional origins, becoming an occasion for communities to come together. A town may line its streets with bamboo branches and streamers decorated by nearby elementary schools, a shrine will have paper and pens ready for passers-by to write down their hopes and dreams, and a train station may erect a large bamboo tree so commuters can take some time out to write on a tanzaku, and fasten them onto its branches themselves.

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