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Tanabata

Posted in: 07. Tanabata by Moon Elf on August 08, 2009

Compare that story with this one from Japanese myth for the Tanabata Festival celebrated on my birthday July 7th.  [This is also coincidentally my birthday]

Japanese Myth: Tanabata – The Sad Love Story of Orihime and Kengyu (July 7th)

Once upon a time, there was a place called the the Milky Way. There, the world was divided into two.
Humans lived on one side and on the other side, lived gods. The humans’ world was in the west and the gods’ in the east, and they never met each other.
In the west world, there was a young beautiful boy called Kengyu. He lived with cows as a herdsman.

In the east world, where the gods lived, were the Orihime sisters (weaving princesses), who weaved very beautiful clothes. The youngest daughter was especially beautiful and had excellent skill in weaving. They were living on the each side of the vast Milky Way.

One day, when Kengyu was taking a walk with his cows, he came to the east of the Milky Way. There, the Orihimes had taken off their silk clothes and were bathing. Kengyu was fascinated by the beautiful sisters’ figures without knowing they were goddesses. It was such a beautiful view. He was especially fascinated by the youngest sister. His eyes were the ones of someone who had awoken with his first love.
One of the cows, who was watching him, whispered him,
‘ Kengyu, take her clothes away.’
Kengyu, who heard it, pulled her clothes from a tree branch as the cow had suggested and hid them behind a rock.
Orihime came out from the river, looked for her clothes and became flustered, realizing that her clothes were missing.
‘I’ll catch up with you later.’,
she said to her sisters. She crouched there naked as she could not fly without her silk clothes.

Then, somebody called her from her behind.
‘Here are your clothes. But I would like to ask you a favour.’
When she turned back, she saw a young man standing, showing his back to her.
‘I would like you to be my wife.’,
he said.
‘I must go back to the sky.’
The young man turned to Orihime who had hidden herself behind a rock.
‘I would like you to be my wife.’
When she saw his face, she was startled. The valiant figure, the beautiful gaze. She decided to accept his proposal.
In her mind, she also thought if he returned her clothes somehow …

Before long, a girl and a boy were born between them. They had been living together and Orihime hadn’t gone home even once. Kengyu was happy, so was Orihime, and the children were happy with them, too.
But a goddess who lived in the mountain of Kong Long ground her teeth with fury when she heard that Orihime was living in the human’s world and with children by Kengyu. She was jealous.
‘I will never allow it. Bring her back as soon as possible!’
She sent a man from the heaven and took her back by force.

Kengyu and the children who were left lived on, crying. But they couldn’t go on like that. One day, he put a basket on his back with the children in it, and kept walking to the east of the Milky Way.
After days of walking, he finally arrived at the Milky Way. Then strangely, the river vanished into the air. When he looked around for it, it was seen further away.
The goddess had moved the river to a higher place to prevent Kengyu from seeing her and to sever them. Kengyu and Orihime were weeping far from each other.
The father and the children went home, crying and looking at the Milky Way, which had moved far away. When they kept crying at home, a cow who felt sympathetic to them whispered,
‘Kengyu, when I die, make clothes from my skin. You will be able to climb up to the Milky Way in them.’
And he died after his words. Kengyu cried again, this time, to know that the cow understood him and tried to realize his wish by his death.
He made a jacket from his skin, put it on, and left for the Milky Way with his children in a basket on his back.

They arrived at the Milky Way. The stars were shining all over. It was such a beautiful view. Kengyu was excited with the hope of seeing his wife and the children called out for their mother.
The goddess, who was watching, went mad with jealousy. She divided the river into two with her hairpin and made it unable for them to cross the river.
Water of the river increased and flooded with her rage. The father and the children were soon drawn into the big wave and were almost drowning. But they did not give up.
‘Dad, let’s ladle the water and empty the river. Then, it’s gonna be shallow and we’ll be able to see our mum somehow.’
So he started fighting against the river, ladling out the water. When he got exhausted, the girl took his place, and when she got exhausted, the boy took over. They took turns and kept on ladling.

The goddess watched them and took pity. She said,
‘Stop ladling the water. The children can live with their mother from now on. Kengyu can see her on July 7. But, it’s only once a year.’
When he heard that, he knelt down and thanked her.

Since then, Kengyu and Orihime can see each other in the middle of the river on July 7, meeting each year with tears of joy.
Even now, we can see the beautiful, white Milky Way in the night sky in summer. On both sides, there are bigger and brighter stars.These are Kengyu and Orihime. And by Kengyu, there are two little stars. This is the sight of the two children.
This is a Chinese story from many thousands of years ago.

Translated from Japanese by Sanae Ueda

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