I don’t know if winter is coming but summer has come : it’s just a few days before tanabata. Well, if we consider the traditional lunisolar calendar, the 7th day of the 7th month won’t be before August the 6th, but let’s just pretend we don’t know and rejoice !
Hiroshima Railway launched its “Tanabata Train” today, with tanzaku holding messages written by kindergarden children and other paper decorations hanging from the ceiling. The texts include a lot of wishes for the victims of the Tohoku earthquake.
the text on the tanzaku reads “For the people of the earthquake to be able to live healthily”
The idea is just great. An old lady even said it gave her a refreshing feeling, thus helping the conservation of electricity effort (you feel fresh → you don’t turn the air conditionner on).
By the way do you know why 七夕 reads tanabata ? It seems that mukashi mukashi (a long long time ago) shinto rites held for a “night of the spirits festival” included the weaving of a piece of clothe on a 棚機, a loom, that reads “tanabata” to be offered to the gods. At that time, the tanabata festival celebrating Vega and Altair was probably called “shichiseki”, which is a normal reading of the kanjis. The two festivals were held at the same period, and sort of merged. They kept the kanjis 七夕 but the name of the other festival, tanabata. I think this is a sort of special ateji. I suppose there are hundreds of explanations for this strange reading…
(Note that o-bon, the bouddhist “night of the spirits festival” is held on August the 15th (from the 13th to the 15th) but is traditionnaly on the 15th day of the 7th month in the lunisolar calendar… since the lunisolar calendar is about one month late compared to the gregorian one, the modern date of August the 15th has been chosen. The 15th day of the 7th month is just one week after tanabata, so it also correspond with the previous shinto “night of the spirits” period. Religions change and the night of the deads perdures, as it is the case in Europe.)