July 7th is a yearly Japanese festival called Tanabata, based on famous story in Chinese culture about Hikoboshi and Otohime, two star-crossed lovers who can only meet one night a year, and are symbolized by the stars in the night sky Altair and Vega. Tanabata is a very festive time with decorated bamboo trees everywhere:
Prior to the pandemic, my wife and kids would always visit Japan to see family for the summer, so they would celebrate Tanabata there (I usually came for a subset of that time in late July). There are plenty of parades, summer festivals, and decorations. However, being stuck here in States for the last couple of years, it’s been hard to celebrate for the kids, especially my youngest son who has only dim memories of Japan. Normally, the tradition is to hang streamers and such on bamboo trees, but it turns out getting a bamboo tree large enough is difficult around here.
Late last year, while at the gardening store, we picked up a nice potted Fargesia Rufa, a non-invasive bamboo tree.1
Thus, during this Tanabata, we finally had a chance to properly celebrate in 3 years:
My wife made paper lanterns out of origami paper (she said this was something grade school kids learn), and we decorated the tree, not unlike decorating a Christmas tree, albeit smaller. Further, per tradition, we each made tanzaku (短冊), which are small streamers that you write wishes on. These are hung on the tree along with the paper lanterns.
Here is the tanzaku that I made:
For my wish, I wrote in Japanese 今年、ＪＬＰＴの試験に合格しますように (kotoshi, JLPT no shiken ni gōkaku shimasu yō ni) which was my wish to pass the JLPT N1 exam this year.2 😏
We also celebrated by getting our favorite Chinese food (since the legend of Tanabata comes from Chinese culture), for the first time in years. It was a great evening. As with many of us, we’re learning to adapt to new realities, even if they’re such ones, and spending time with loved ones and family traditions is one of the best ways to get through such times. ☺️
P.S. This was composed shortly before the unfortunate news in Japan, so I wish to extend my condolences to Japan, and to the Abė family. 😔
1 It’s important not to purchase an invasive bamboo tree. A couple houses near my son’s school have bamboo plants that have overgrown, and whose roots are even damaging sidewalks now.
2 The last time I tried was about 5 years ago, and I failed pretty badly after messing up the Scantron bubble sheet and automatically failing. Even if I hadn’t, I doubt I would’ve passed.