Held each year on July 7, the Tanabata festival has its roots in the folktale of a young married couple, symbolized by two stars in the night sky, who toil away at their trades separately, able to meet just once a year. It’s a little like the situation in many Japanese families where the husband gets transferred by his company to another prefecture and his wife stays behind to continue her own career or look after the kids. Just replace “office workers” with “cowherd and daughter of the king of heaven” and “prefectural border” with “the Milky Way,” and you’ve got a close approximation.

The story of the two lovers finally being able to see each other has taken on a broader connotation of wishes coming true, and Tanabata is commonly celebrated by writing a wish down on strip of paper, then tying it to a stalk of bamboo.

Department stores and shopping centers usually have displays where visitors post their wishes. Since they’re then on display for others to see, you can get a glimpse of current trends by checking them out. “My family’s safety,” “success in business,” and “health” are three old-standbys of Tanabata wishes, but what else were people hoping for this year?

It’s common for students to ask for help in passing their entrance exams. This year, however, several parents doubled up on good luck by themselves making that same wish for their kids. The economic situation in Japan still isn’t all that rosy, so many parents also wrote down their hopes for their children to find steady work as soon as possible.

Elementary school-age kids, not having to worry about such worldly things yet, often write their specific dream of what they want to be when they grow up. Professional athlete is a common aspiration, particularly for soccer and baseball, Japan’s two hottest sports these days. Some also apparently want to be superheroes like Kamen Rider or the stars of popular anime PreCure. Neither one of these are as likely to pay as well as more traditional jobs like banker or engineer, but we figure we can wait at least a year before bursting these kids’ bubbles.

▼ They’ll learn the harsh truth eventually when their medical insurance application gets rejected because they filled in the blank for occupation with “magical girl.”

“I want to be rich” also made several appearances, but judging from the neat handwriting, it seems safe to say that most of these were from adults. Writing closer to what could be expected from children contained decidedly simpler material goals, such as finding coveted rare trading cards.

There are always plenty of “I want a boyfriend” wishes. This year brought a few glimpses of longer-running narratives, however, such as “I hope the guy I like and I finally start dating this year,” or “I hope the person I’m dating now and I end up getting married.”

A number of people decided to use their Tanabata wishes for something meaningful and wide-reaching. World peace was a common hope, as was happiness for all of one’s friends and family. Some deep thinkers even asked “to always be able to be a kind person.”

Several strips of paper also contained hopes for the speedy recovery of victims of the 2011 Great Kanto Earthquake. The city of Sendai, which was hit particularly hard by the quake, hosts one of Japan’s largest Tanabata celebrations, and was likely in the minds of those who wrote such wishes.

▼ Tanabta in Sendai

However, there’s no stigma about using your Tanabata wish for something that solely benefits yourself. On the other end of the spectrum from the philanthropists above, there were several impassioned pleas for tickets to concerts of popular boy bands such as Kiss My 2 Feet and Arashi. Front row tickets were especially longed for, along with currently inactive musicians making a return to the stage.

▼ Using your one wish for the year for this might seem extreme, until you realize the size of Arashi’s fan base

Hmm…you know, given that most Arashi concertgoers are young women, maybe the best thing a boy could wish for isn’t “grow up to be Kamen Rider,” but “grow up to be Arashi.”

Source: Excite News