Osaka takes early lead in summer fun


Staff Writer

Mythical lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi are eternally separated by the Milky Way. But once a year, they reunite and Japan celebrates this meeting via an event called Tanabata.

Shitennoji Temple in Osaka’s Tennoji Ward leads the way in Tanabata celebrations, which will be held throughout Japan later in the summer.

Most impressive is a 22-meter bamboo grass tunnel, complete with an artificial Milky Way created by glittering LED lights. This year, a banner will also be hung to show support for the victims of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and to help promote the renowned Tanabata festival in Sendai, which is set to happen in August.

There will be tanzaku (paper strips) for people to write wishes on distributed in the tunnel. These tanzaku will be set alight in a bonfire at the end of the festival.

A star-gazing activity will also take place at the venue where a number of telescopes will be provided. Astronomers will also be on hand to relay easy instructions on how to navigate the night sky.

Students from the Osaka School Of Music will add to the festivities by performing an acoustic mini-concert outdoors. Other performers will include: the Osaka Municipal Tennoji Junior High Band, the Oedo Junior Sports Baton Twirling Group, a pop dance/music group called Studio Upward, several taiko drummers, the hula-dancing group Halau Hula o Mehana, a Japanese buyoh (dance) group, a Koto ensemble, the well-known Japanese musician Takamasa Segi who plays Peruvian instruments, Japanese flutist Yumiko, and more.

There will also be a variety of stalls selling books or traditional summer food, and plenty of games for families to play.

The Osaka Tanabata Tunnel Opening Ceremony will be on July 7 at 7 p.m. and the decorative lights will remain lit from 7 p.m. till 12 midnight from July 7-9. Sendai’s Tanabata will be held Aug. 6-8.