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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class: Holidays in Japan Series on JapanesePod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Japanese holidays and observances. I’m Becky, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 14: Star Festival.
The Star Festival, or 七夕 (Tanabata), means "evening of the seventh," and is celebrated on July 7th each year. According to the legend, this is the one day a year that 織姫 (Orihime), meaning “the weaving princess," and 彦星 (Hikoboshi), meaning “the cow herder," can spend together. Orihime's father, a powerful god, separated the deeply-in-love couple. Moved by his daughter’s tears, he ultimately granted them one day a year together.
Now, before we go into greater detail, do you know the answer to this question: why were Orihime and Hikoboshi separated?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
First, let's learn how this holiday is celebrated today.
For the Star Festival, we put up many 笹飾り (sasakazari), meaning “hanging decorations.” The many types of hanging decorations symbolize different things. Purses symbolize the desire for good business; cranes represent long life; streamers represent Orihime's weaving of beautiful cloth; and fishing nets represent a good catch. You can find these decorations everywhere during 七夕 (Tanabata), including at festivals.
七夕 (Tanabata) festivals are held in many regions, the most famous being 仙台七夕祭り (Sendai Tanabata matsuri), meaning the Sendai Tanabata festival. At these festivals, people gather on the main street where there are decorations, food stalls, and sometimes entertainment, including music and dancing. Common food stall delicacies include たこ焼き (takoyaki), 焼きそば (yakisoba), and cold beer.
A popular custom on or around Tanabata is for people to write their personal wishes on a piece of paper, and then hang the paper on a bamboo tree. Common wishes are for 織姫 (Orihime) and 彦星 (Hikoboshi) to be together, for one's family to stay healthy, and to become rich!
Here’s our fun fact for the day! 織姫 (Orihime) and 彦星 (Hikoboshi) are known as the Vega and Altair stars respectively. Do you know how far apart these two stars are? They are about fifteen light-years apart, which means that they are fifteen years away from each other, even if they’re traveling at the speed of light.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question: why were they separated?
The answer is because they stopped working. After the two were married, they enjoyed their married life so much that they no longer worked. 織姫 (Orihime)'s father became enraged and separated them. 織姫 (Orihime) became very sad, and her father took pity, allowing them to meet once a year if they finished their work. Now, the belief is that they work hard all year while looking forward to their only day together.
Well listeners, how was this lesson?
Did you learn something new?
If you participate in Tanabata, what do you write as your wish?
Please leave us a comment telling us at JapanesePod101.com.
And we’ll see you next time!