It’s called “Tanabata/七夕” which means “evening of the seventh.”
This “star festival” originated from the Chinese Qixi Festival and celebrates the yearly reunion between two deities that are deeply in love with each other and can only meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month.
For a full description of the history of this festival, please visit the Wiki page here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanabata
The Japan Foundation in Toronto is holding festivities this week to celebrate.
As I walked into the facility, all the staff members were wearing “Yukata/浴衣,” which is a kimono that is made from a light cotton and is worn in the summer.
The staff had provided some paper and pens for visitors to write down their own wishes and desires in the hope that it will come true. Once, you were done writing down your wish, you were then instructed to tie the wish to a bamboo tree as it is tradition. (They had a bamboo tree in the lounge.)
I had read some wishes from past visitors to get a sense of what people were writing. For example, a child had asked for a dog as a pet, another child wanted to grow up big and strong, others had wished to be able to speak fluent English, I then decided to write a message of my own:
(See photo to the right, click to enlarge)
Then, there was a library “research” challenge. One had to find the answers to a sheet of questions by searching around the library. Prize winners will be contacted on August 7th to those that answered the most questions correctly. (Wish me luck! I’ll keep everyone posted if I win anything.)
For the rest of the week, they will have a “Yukata Dressing Up” demonstration followed by children being able to play with “PARO,” which is a “a therapeutic robot baby harp seal” that can interact with you when you speak to it or pet it!
It was so cute, I didn’t want to leave! I was petting him long enough that he “fell asleep” in my arms. I would love to get one of these if it didn’t cost $6,000 US!
They also had story-time for the children. The stories were all in Japanese, which was a nice way of sharpening my listening skills.
It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot more about the Japanese culture. Moreover, I got to see what it was like for Japanese people to celebrate this festival while they live or work in Toronto.
Maybe Japan is closer than I think. I hope to explore more “Japan” in my own city and will definitely share my findings with you all in the future.
I also hope that this will be an inspiration for others to go out and explore your own city and see how much “Japan” you can find.
You never know until you get out there and check it out for yourself!
For more information about the Japan Foundation, please visit the official website here: http://www.jpf.go.jp/e/