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Cultural Festivals

Tanabata, The Star Festival

Drawing of a Orihime and Hikoboshi on a bridge of magpies holding hands while looking at each other lovingly.
Illustration of Orihime and Hikoboshi by George Katagiri, who was a longtime friend of Portland Japanese Garden.

Tanabata was inspired by an ancient Chinese folk legend. In it, Orihime and Hikoboshi were in love but were banished by Orihime’s father the Sky King to opposite ends of the Milky Way for neglecting their work to spend time together. Moved by his daughter’s sorrow over this, the Sky King allowed them to meet just once a year on the 7th night of the 7th month. On this night a flock of magpies use their wings to form a bridge so that the Orihime can cross the Milky Way to be united with Hikoboshi. The magpies will only make the bridge if July 7 is a clear night; if it rains, they must wait another year. Because of this legend, many Japanese people pray for a clear night on July 7.

Tanabata is one of five seasonal festivals celebrated in Japan since the 8th century.


10:30am – 2:30pm PDT: Wish writing in the Yanai Classroom.

11:45am and 12:45pm PDT: Musical performances by Takohachi Q Ensemble (taiko drums, shinobue flute) featuring storytelling of the Tanabata story at the Pavilion’s East Veranda.