Happy Tanabata, for the second time this year. Tanabata again? What’s going on? Well, the Tanabata festival falls on the seventh day of the seventh month. So most places celebrate it on the seventh of July, like the Japan Society- led Tanabata festival on the South Bank that I wrote about before. But not all calendars are the same – by the lunar calendar August counts as the seventh month, so here we are celebrating Tanabata all over again.
This time I went to the Embassy of Japan’s Tanabata Festival at the Minka House at Kew Gardens, where they offered the chance to learn origami and calligraphy and to make tanzaku and hang them on the bamboo trees that surround the Minka House.
Quick recap on Tanabata – it’s the festival of the weaver star, the one day of the year when weaver princess Orihime and her lover, Hikoboshi, are allowed to cross the Milky Way and meet. The rest of the time they have to work. If you make a wish on Tanabata, Orihime will see to it that it comes true. You have to write your wish on a piece of paper, called a tanzaku, and hang it on a bamboo branch.
If it rains and the Milky Way floods, Orihime and Hikoboshi can’t meet, so it was a relief when the overnight torrential rain cleared to leave a lovely sunny day for the festival.
The last time I visited the Minka house (a traditional Japanese farmhouse) was in the winter, so it was great to see how different it looked with lush foliage all around it.
It stands in the middle of Kew’s bamboo garden, created in 1891 with forty species of bamboo, mainly from Japan. It now has around 1,200 bamboo species from China, Japan, the Himalayas and Americas, making it one of the largest collections in the UK.
The families who came to the festival seemed to enjoy it very much. With luck, Kew will make this an annual event.