Tanabata Festival in Osaka

Tanabata in Osaka: Floating Wishes on the Ogawa River

In the summer of 2016, we had the unforgettable experience of celebrating Tanabata (七夕) in Osaka, Japan. This traditional festival, held on the seventh day of the seventh month, is a time when people across Japan come together to celebrate the legend of Orihime (織姫) and Hikoboshi (彦星), two star-crossed lovers separated by the Milky Way, who are allowed to meet just once a year.

My study term at Nara Women’s University was coming to an end. I was both excited and sad—excited to reunite with Iris (my furbaby) after almost a year, and sad that such a beautiful journey in Japan was concluding. I knew I would cherish these days forever. I decided to wear the new yukata (浴衣) I had bought just a few days earlier. It was too hot to wear any makeup; it would have melted away anyway. I walked all the way to Nara JR from my dorm. We took the Yamatoji rapid train to Temma Station and walked 10 minutes to our destination.

All set – leaving my dorm for the big event.
Reached Ogawa river.
Can’t wait to experience Tanabata in person.

The heart of Osaka’s Tanabata celebrations was the Ogawa River (大川). That year, 50,000 blue LED lights were floated along the river, creating a mesmerizing scene. Each light represented a wish or a prayer, a beautiful tradition allowing participants to float their hopes and dreams on the water, hoping they will be granted by the stars above.

Ogawa river, Osaka.
50,000 blue LED lights were floated along the river.
Tanabata Festival 2016, Osaka.

The atmosphere was magical as the sun began to set, casting a golden glow over the river. Families, couples, and friends gathered along the riverbanks, writing their wishes on strips of paper known as tanzaku (短冊). The excitement was palpable as we prepared to release our wishes into the river. The act of letting go of the tanzaku, watching it gently drift away, carried a sense of peace and hope. It was a moment of reflection and connection with nature, as well as with the centuries-old traditions of Japan.

Tanabata at Ogawa river, Osaka.
Watching the blue LED lights floating in the river.

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