Tanabata is not only one of the most romantic traditions from Japan, it also has one of the most beautiful customs - at Shinto shrines and also at stores, schools or even museums, you will see these days a bamboo branch decorated with small, colored paper notes called tanzaku 「短冊」. People are writing their wishes on a tanzaku, then hanging it on a bamboo branch (like on a wish tree), praying for their wishes to come true.
Me too, I wrote my own tanzaku wishes a few years ago, when I participated at the Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri…
It is believed that the custom started from the story of Orhime and Hikoboshi who, like the tradition says, are allowed to meet each other only on Tanabata. They are separated by a river and if it rains they will not be able to cross the river and meet. So, the people started praying for good weather, and this is how the tanzaku custom was born!
I’ve seen a lot of beautiful tanzaku trees, but probably because of the traditional setting, my favorite was this one from the Asakusa Shrine at Senso-ji, Tokyo:
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: