1st Annual Los Angeles Tanabata Festival

September 26, 2009

in Fun

Back on August 14, 2009, I went to the opening ceremony of the Tanabata Festival in Little Tokyo, one of the kick-off events for this year’s Nisei Week. I felt such solidarity with my people … the unemployed. I mean, how were so many other folks able to find parking in downtown and grab a seat by five o’clock on a Friday afternoon? Either they had free time being laid-off like me, or they were really excited about the first annual Tanabata Festival happening in Los Angeles. Or both. The place was packed!

Tanabata festivals are based on a folk tale about the weaver princess star named Orihime and the cow herder star, Hikoboshi, who fell in love and became so lost in their love for each other that they totally neglected their duties. Orihime’s father, the sky king, was like “Dang, you lazy kids!” and banished them to opposite sides of the Milky Way. Orihime was heartbroken and asked her father if she and Hikoboshi could ever be together again. He granted her wish by allowing them to reunite just once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month, the festival day.

The festival is celebrated by displaying a few types of symbolic paper decorations. Hanging in front of the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, most of the festival decorations were the fukinagashi type with long streamers swaying in the breeze representing Orihime’s weaving threads. 230 decorations were painstakingly handmade by community members, including participation from all of the local kenjinkai, the Japanese prefectural associations. There were also ten giant decorations from Sendai, Japan, the city with the most famous annual Tanabata Festival.

The tanabata decorations were like a school of candy-colored jellyfish swimming up to the ocean in the sky. Just looking at details such as folded paper flowers, cranes, and chain links made my fingers ache. There was one with “LA” in big blue letters for the Dodgers, and one had a painting of a flaming guitar. Rock on!

I didn’t remember all this tanabata stuff from the days of going to Japanese school, but yay for this festival because now it’s ingrained in my head that when it’s summer and the L.A. Tanabata Festival rolls around, that’s when wishes come true.

Video of Tanabata Festival 2009 in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles by Letsu Go!


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