The ancient Japanese festival of Tanabata tells a charming legend about the lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair, who live and work on opposite sides of the Amanogawa, or Milky Way. When they meet and fall in love, both begin to neglect their work, and Orihime’s father, the Sky King, will only allow them to meet on one day of the year.
The first time they try to meet they cannot cross the Amanogawa, which is symbolised by a river, because there is no bridge. Saddened by Orihime’s tears, a flock of magpies make a bridge with their wings, so the lovers can meet. If it rains on Tanabata the magpies cannot come because the river waters are too high, and the lovers must wait another year.
Knutsford’s Tatton Park is holding a Tanabata Festival on Saturday 17 August from 10:30am – 4pm this year. The perfect setting for the celebration will be overlooking the estate’s beautiful Japanese Garden, described by TV gardener Monty Don as one of the finest in Europe.
One of the many colourful traditions associated with Tanabata is writing wishes on strips of coloured paper, called tanzaku, which are then hung from bamboo. Traditionally young children wished for better skills at sewing and crafts or for better handwriting. Nowadays “I wish to travel in space” or “I wish to climb Everest” might be seen more often.
Tatton Park’s many Tanabata activities will include the chance to have your name written in Japanese, try some origami and watch traditional storytelling with pictures, called Kamishibai. It promises to be a charming and unusual day out, in the perfect setting.