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 July, 2002 

Tanabata Festival
\Kyoko Matsuo, the Weaver\

Hi, friends.
July is a happy month for children and the young at heart.
Ukiyo-e by Hiroshige

We have Tanabata Festival on July 7.
Have you ever heard of Tanabata?
I guess you have seen a bamboo tree with decorations of colorful sheets of paper. The right is a Ukiyo-e by Hiroshige.

The bamboo tree is to celebrate the festival. Children wish upon stars, writing on those long sheets of paper their hopes or dreams. Some boys write," I want to be a soccer player.", Girls write, "I wish to be pretty."
The legend of Tanabata probably ascends its root to China, Korea, or some other Asian countries. In these countries, they also celebrate the Star Festival.
Like any other legend, the story of Tanabata differs from each other depending upon the districts or nations. Even in Japan, Tanabata Festival has many ways of celebration. Tanabata in Sendai or in Akita are very gorgeous and famous.

Here is the legend of Tanabata.
The Star Vega of the Lyre and the Altaire of the Eagle are the heroine and the hero of this legend. In between these two stars, there is a river, the Milky Way. Vega is the Weaver Princess, the daughter of the Emperor of Heaven. Her husband Altaire is a herd boy who, since they got married, had forgotten to take care of the cows. Emperor got angry and exiled him to
Up left :the Vega, Down right: Altaire
live beyond the river, and allowed them to have a rendezvous only once a year on the night of July 7th.

Lunar Calendar's July is early autumn, and the sky is clear at night with beautiful Milky Way. But in Solar Calendar, July 7 is still in the rainy season, and we cannot see the sky. We are sorry for the lovers who cannot cross the high waves. Since olden times, poets dedicated rhymes to these sad lovers.
Korean people ask the magpies to spread their wings as a bridge across the river. In Vietnam they ask crows to do the same thing.
We Japanese decorate a bamboo tree to pray.
Please join me wishing for a very nice clear sky for the Weaver Princess and the Herd Boy. Put a small bamboo tree in your yard, or any tree, and decorate it with beautiful ornaments. Write something nice on colorful papers, and tie them to the twigs.
Then you sing the Tanabata song, will you?

Sasa no ha sara sara
Nokiba ni yureru
Ohosisama kira kira
Kin gin sunago.

The meaning of the song is:
Bamboo tree is swaying
Under the eaves,
Stars are twinkling
Like gold and silver sands.

You don't know the melody? Well, then, why don't you sing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars' instead? Stars will be pleased with your song.

So, now, I would like you to meet the Weaver Princess of Karatsu.
Kyoko Matsuo

Kyoko Matsuo was born and raised in Karatsu. She studied in college in Tokyo under the famous artist Yoshitaka Yanagi, and later she joined the studio of his younger brother, Yoshihiro Yanagi, who was also a famous textile artist. She has been weaving for 30years. Kyoko's effort together with her talent has made her one of the most outstanding weavers of Japan.
Kyoko weaved this Kimono
for a bride at Yanagi's studio.
Her Kimonos appear in Kimono magazines or women's fashion books. She has been honored with many awards in the exhibitions of traditional craft.
Her lifework is the textile itself, and also the preservation of old culture of fabric. 30 years ago, when she was only 22, she found an old woman who could make fabric from kudze vine, and she learned how to do it, living with the woman for three months. She also restored a primitive weaving loom of olden time.

She spins threads of silk, kudze, wool, linen, dyes them in natural dyestuffs, and weaves them into a cloth as light as cicada's wings. Her art is fabulous, but she never boasts of herself.
The loom Kyoko restored

When I said to her,"Kyoko-san, you are a genius", she said,"No, I am not. I am only patient."
And I knew that patience is another word for genius.

Thank you for meeting our Weaver Princess.
I wish you a very happy Tanabata Festival.

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi
Proprietress of Ryokan Yoyokaku

  Mail to Harumi Okochi