Orihime, daughter of the Tentei (天帝 Sky King, or the universe itself) wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (Milky Way). Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, Orihime was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and married shortly thereafter. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if she worked hard and finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.
Tanabata is a Japanese star festival that celebrates the meeting of Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively). According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. The date of Tanabata varies by region of the country, but the first festivities begin on July 7 of the Gregorian calendar. The celebration is held at various days between July and August.
In present-day Japan, people generaly celebrate this day by writing wishes, sometimes in a form of poetry or tanzaku, small pieces of paper, and hanging them on bambo or other decorations. The bamboo and decorations are often set a float on the river or burned after the festival, around midnight or on the next day. This resembles the custom of floating paper ships and candles during Obon. Many area in Japan has their own Tanabata customs, which are mostly related to local Obon tradition. There is also traditional Tanabata song :Sasa no ha sara-sara
Nokiba ni yureru
Goshiki no tanzaku
watashi ga kaita
sora kara miteiru
Translation:The bamboo leaves rustle,
shaking away in the eaves.
The stars twinkle
on the gold and silver grains of sand.
The five-colour paper strips
I have already written.
The stars twinkle,
they watch us from heaven.
Tengu stared at a large bamboo tree growing near his house, many tanabata wishes already tied upon it. He fiddled with a piece of paper in his hands and sighed softly as he recalled his favorite holiday…looking down at the colorful piece of paper in his hand with the secret on it for all to see, he sighed a little and glanced back to the bamboo tree once more. Should he really post it up there? Or would it be way too obvious?
“…it’s already written. Might as well.” He hung his secret on the tree and stared at it…then walked away silently.
Snake Man was looking for another bamboo to hang his piece of paper on. He sort of hoped that his wish could really come true this year if he hanged more paper pieces on other bamboos. As he searched outside the city, in the distance he spotted a large bamboo… and Tengu Man walking away from it. He ran to his brother, still holding his green paper.
“Hey, Tengu Man! Is that you?! I haven’t seen you in a while!”
Tengu screamed and hit behind a tree when he was called upon. It was instinct when placing his secrets. He peeked out to see it was only Snake Man. He perked up a bit and spoke timidly, so uncharacteristic of him.
“Hi Snake Man…didn’t expect to see you here.”
He looked at the bamboo trees, littered with colorful pieces of paper.
“…I thought I was the only one that celebrated Tanabata.”
Was Tengu Man scared?! That surprised and confused Snake Man. He blinked and approached the tree slowly. Huh? Tengu Man sounds kinda timid for some reason.
“Well, I didn’t think I’d run into you. I didn’t realize how far outside the city I went just to look for more bamboos to hang my wish papers. Well, the pieces of papers all have the same one wish but I thought I’d hang them on more than one bamboo. Maybe my wish can really come true this year if I do that. Or maybe it’s a silly idea but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try.”
Snake Man also looked at the bamboos and admired the colorful pieces of papers hanging from the branches.
“They’re so beautiful~. Oh? I love Tanabata, too! When I first learned about it, I decided to celebrate it every year. Oh, I love the story of the weaving princess and the cowherd. It actually made me cry.”
Ah. Is he rambling? Snake Man grinned sheepishly at Tengu Man and rubbed the back of his head.
Tengu looked at the tree quietly, closing his eyes as the wind made the leaves and paper chatter. He seemed to be listening to the sound, although many would say it was an unremarkable sound to listen to. He opened his eyes and looked to him, leaning on the tree.
“I won’t argue with you…but I think that writing the same wish multiple times is cheating. It pesters the Gods that promise these wishes if they get repeats from one person…but you may do as you wish; we all celebrate differently. I write one wish each year. So far, I’ve gotten my wish almost every year. This year…”
He looked at a bright red piece of paper, probably the most obvious amongst the pieces of pastel colored papers.
“…I might be asking for too much. I think…I am being selfish.”
Snake Man looked at Tengu Man… and then his face sort of dropped. Thinking about it now, his brother could be right. And now he feels bad for even coming up with the idea today in the first place. Being selfish on a day like this?
“… Oh, uh… I guess you’re right about that. Sorry. I only hanged two pieces of paper in the city and decided to hang another out here somewhere. But… now I’m not so sure about this. I mean, even if it’s outside and a more natural place… this is my third paper. And….”
Snake Man looked at his green paper (which isn’t pastel) and then at the bamboos before taking a glance at Tengu Man’s bright red paper. Asking for too much? What’s he wishing for this year that’s different from the others?
“…. I’ve been making the same wish every year for the past six years. And it still hasn’t come true yet. It makes me kinda sad. I still keep hoping, though. At least you get your wishes. But how can you be asking for too much?”
“Love is something you have to obtain yourself. The Gods can’t make it happen for you.”
Tengu sat down under the bamboo tree and stared at his paper, watching it flutter slightly as the wind blew.
“The Gods can certainly handle money and other trivial things, but to ask for love is something big. You have to give something to them in exchange…and I have nothing of value to give them, exactly…I don’t think I have anything of true value to give them, really.”
He looked down and fiddled with the edge of his mask, pulling it away slightly to scratch at what was underneath. A flash of something bright red was evident..was it hair? Or was that his mask again? He refit his mask over his face and his bright green eyes stared up at the trees and their many secrets.
“And to be honest…I don’t know what I can do.”