Vega and Altair Appear at Tanabata Festival

For the third consecutive year a Tanabata Festival was held on Saturday, July 7, at the 116th St. overlook in Riverside Park. Tanabata is a Japanese summer festival (also known as the Star Festival) involving the story of the deities Princess Orihime (a weaver) and Hikoboshi (a cow herder), represented by the stars Vega and Altair, which are prominent in the summer sky.

Tanabata has become a large summer festival in Japan, often promoted as a romantic holiday, much like Valentine’s Day. Part of the festival involves writing wishes on colored paper called “tanzaku” and attaching them to bamboo trees or poles. This is also been called “Christmas in July.” We added the element of providing telescopes for participants to view the night sky.

It has turned into a nice collaborative event among the various organizations: AAA, the Japanese American Association of New York (JAA), the Origami Therapy Association, the Japanese Consulate, Japanese Americans and Japanese in America (JAJA) and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL).

The Japanese Consul General and his wife, Ambassador and Mrs. Takahashi attended and looked through telescopes. Tomofumi Horiki, the Cultural Attaché from the Consulate, brought his family and recited the Tanabata fable with a set of traditional storytelling “flash cards”.

Several of the organizers brought food for people to try. Riverside Parks administrator John Herrold was there, he knew about the AAA Pier-i observing that night through staff that was handling that event. He’s also interested in getting a telescope and I mentioned we have many people who can help him. Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer and her husband also attended.

Thanks to the observers who came out: Tom Haeberle, Jason Tang, Bruce Kamiat, Howard Fink, Bhaswan Kurra and a member whose name I can’t remember now. It was the best sky of the week and we saw Venus, Jupiter, the stars Vega and Altair (part of the Tanabata fable) and other stars.

It seemed like we had many more people than last year, probably a total of over 100 for the evening. Yuki Kaneshige from the consulate brought a few traditional summer hapi coats for the men and yukata kimonos for the women. Some women came already in their kimonos and two men arrived in summer robes. Yuki brought 4 plastic bamboo trees that we used to decorate with the “tanzaku” wishes. The Origami Therapy Association had 3 people helping with the tanzaku and folding origami throughout the night.