Monday, 13 July 2015

Tales around the world (I: Tanabata)

Visiting other worlds

***Listening to: Mad Summer - Joe Hisaishi (I recommend the whole playlist I linked though!)*** 


In this section I'll tell you about tales from different cultures as I love discovering them myself. I am no expert, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

This story has to do with something that took place last week, and I've unconsciously knew about it since I was a child. As someone obsessed with the spheres I collected books on the matter from a young age. This (and many others haha) was one of the stories I used to read before bed back in the time. I wouldn't completely make sense out of it but it was still cool to me.

Without further ado, *ikuzo!

*Japanese for let's go!

My childhood book containing the story

The lovers who were apart

Tentei, the king of the stars, had a very beautiful daughter, whose name was Orihime. Princess Orihime was a great weaver and created the most wonderful pieces. His father was proud of her but he kept her so busy that she never had time for anything else. Orihime was sad because she thought she would never find someone to fall in love with.

Finally, her father felt sorry for her and chose her a husband. Kengyu was a cowherder that lived at the other side of the river. Orihime and Kengyu married each other and were ecstatic, so much so, that Orihime forgot about her weaving and left it to dust and didn't make another piece at all.

Tentei was angry, as he believed Orihime abandoned her job. Consequently, he decided to separate both lovers and make them live on one side of the river each. But this was no common river (that wouldn't have been a big deal, huh?), because, in fact, this was the river that crossed the realm of the stars. We are talking about the Milky Way. This way, there's no way Orihime and Kengyu can cross it.

Orihime missed Kengyu so much she cried until her tears started dripping and fell to the dress she was wearing. "You'll stain your dress!" Tentei said. "Okay, if you miss your dear so much I'll allow you to see him once a year". 

That's how the king of the stars arranged it so that once per year, on the seventh day of the seventh moon, the waterman of the Moon crosses the vast river to take Orihime to the other shore in order to meet Kengyu.

Regardless, if the princess doesn't weave as she is meant to, Tentei makes it rain so hard that the river overflows and the waterman cannot get to her. When this happens, all the magpies of Japan gather and fly to the river on the sky, making a bridge so that Orihime can walk softly over the feathers of their backs so she can finally reach Kengyu.

And there's nothing his father can do to prevent that.

The end.

The story today

The threads of this little story are still attached to Japan's culture, and to this day it is kept as a tradition. The seventh day of the seventh moon (interpreting the lunar calendar that would be the seventh month, July) there's a *matsuri (*Japanese for "festival") all over the country: its name is Tanabata (this means "evening of the seventh").

Tanabata, also referred to as Star Festival, as with many aspects of Japanese culture, has its origin in Chinese culture. The festival was imported by an Empress in 755 (Heian period), and was initially adopted in the, back then, capital of the land of the rising sun: Kyoto. When it was first recognized in Japan, Tanabata was celebrated only by imperial court officials. It was considered a graceful event, full of the simple elegance so associated with the Heian era of Japan. Lanterns were lighted, and poems were written on mulberry leaves still holding their dew (Nojiri, 1973).

Traditionally, it was an event held in order to "plead for skills". It spread to the majority of the population, therefore, it wasn't the same in every region. However, in general, girls wished for better sewing and craftmanship, and boys wished for better calligraphy skills by writing on strips of paper.

Despite that, these days not the same is done. Like other Japanese matsuri, many outdoor activities are going on that add to the festive atmosphere: you will find many stalls selling food (usually there are typical sets of food selling in the festivals which deserve their own blog entry, but something made for this occasion are Tanabata somen or somen noodles, which are cold noodles with various toppings), providing carnival games, selling bits and bobs (like masks), etc. Today, people (especially children) are more prone to write any kind of wish (quoting my *sensei or Japanese for teacher, for example, something like: I wanna be a Doraemon! :D) on *tanzaku (Japanese for "small piece of paper"), and hang them on a tree or bamboo.

At the end of the night or the day after, they often release the bamboo shoots along with the tanzaku in the river as a cleansing ritual.

Hasimoto Hanano 橋本花乃Tanabata 七夕 - Japan - ca.1930

On my research I also have found this interesting information:

"It is interesting that in some regions of Japan, Tanabata is accompanied by a taboo forbidding swimming or bathing in a river. Noting the relation with the celestial "river" or milky way, the taboo is based on the idea that a Kappa or water deity resides in the river, and one should not make the pure water dirty by entering the water deity's home."

To finish with, there's a reason why rain is pretty significant in the story: rainy season. In most of Japan it takes place from the beginning of June to mid July. Taking other regions into account, Okinawa (southern Japan) gets it one month earlier, and Hokkaido (northern Japan) barely gets affected by it.

A street decorated for Tanabata.
These jellyfish like decorations are streamers that symbolize the weaving done by Orihime.

Behind the story
All these moving images are from this photographer here

And to finish with, and just for curiosity and for the sake of knowledge, we are going to take a look at the names, bits of language, which are very self-explanatory but make one understand the story better just by knowing them and nothing else.

-Orihime--------> Weaving Princess (note that the suffix -hime, used after someone's name, always means princess. In conclusion, -hime is the Japanese for "princess". Example: Skyhime, would mean princess of the sky).
Behind Orihime is the star Vega, which is meant to be her representation, and can be seen around that time of the year.

-Kengyu also, and maybe more well-known as Hikoboshi--------> Cowherder star. I referred to him as Kengyu because this is how "I got to know him". In my book he was called Kengyu what can I say, call him how you like it best :).
The star called Altair is meant to represent him, and is also seen in the night sky those days.

-Tentei---------> it means Sky King or king of the universe itself. In an equivalent way, in Chinese tradition he is Yu Huang or Yu Di (we know him as the Jade Emperor). He is meant to be the first God and he appears in other traditional stories and legends.

-Ama no gawa-------> Ama no gawa is a word I really like. Literally, it means "heavenly river". If you think about it for a second you will realize that the river in heaven is that one composed by stars that we call Milky Way (although to me Via Láctea or Via Làctia sound much prettier than the English and German counterpart; romanic languages reunite!! hahaha). This word is beautiful.

(Okay wait a minute haha, I just noticed that here I am, unfairly comparing a word I know from the languages I learn for no clear reason and deciding which one sounds prettier for the sake of visual and audio aesthetics so I can build a personal "Only pretty words from every language" dictionary. I'll let you know when it's finished okay? Let's all speak the most aesthetically pleasing way possible xD).

Hope you found this informative as well as interesting!

See you soon,

Bertahime :P

PS: Sorry for mixing languages x) Those who know me know that I can't get my mind straight and in oral speech I tend to mix languages otherwise I literally translate them because at that precise moment I don't know the equivalent and it sounds profoundly weird (see: "al final del dia" said to try and mean "at the end of the day" x) ).



  1. Hellooo~!

    Whoaa què complet! *-* Està súper currat, m'ha agradat molt! I les imatges en 3D wow... *es queda mirant-les durant una estona*
    El teu llibre és genial, té mil històries i il·lustracions molt maques... És genial que apreciis el seu valor, de tot llibre (i cosa material que tenim) es pot aprendre molt, tant se val quants anys passin ^^
    Aquesta història en concret sempre m'ha semblat molt bonica *-* Molt trista, tho. Però el tema m'encanta, tot el que tingui a veure amb romanços, prínceps, princeses, el cel, etc. Està clar que als japonesos els encanta tot el tema del cel, la princesa Kaguya s'hi assembla molt :D

    I m'agrada molt com han adaptat la festa culturalment! Sempre fa molta il·lusió escriure desitjos i pensar en que es facin realitat, a més queda molt colorida la ciutat ^^
    Crec que és una de les seves festivitats que més m'agraden~

    Can't wait to read about more!!

    See youuu <3

    1. Hola lovvv!

      Gràcies a tu per apreciar-ho tot i que no sigui res nou :)
      Es que es tan pretty que resulta irresistible. Una cosa que m'encanta de la tradició japonesa és la bellesa que hi ha en cada detall omg és plaer pels sentits :3
      I també vaig relacionar-ho amb la princesa Kaguya!! de fet per un moment vaig dubtar i vaig pensar, hola?, no serà una versió modificada de l'història? però no, es otro cantar, still similar tho.

      I agree! (Petra high-five), es que un festival que es digui Festival de les Estrelles ha de ser excel·lent ja només pel nom x)

      Gràcies per toooot!

      Ens veiem aviat onegai hehe