The list includes some traditional favorites, but the number-one wish is for something very timely.

Japan doesn’t have a tradition of making a wish when you blow out the candles on your birthday cake, but everyone still gets one wish a year on Tanabata. Also known as the Star Festival, Tanabata stems from the folk tale of the Cowherd and the Weaver’s Daughter. According to the story, their love for one another distracted them from their duties, and so the couple, represented by the stars Altair and Vega, were separated by the Milky Way, and allowed to see each other only one night a year, on July 7.

Eventually, Tanabata became a day for us terrestrials to have our desires granted as well, and so people across Japan write their wishes on a small strip of paper called a tanzaku and tie it to a stalk of bamboo in the hope that it will come true.

▼ Tanzaku

Making Tanabata wishes is particularly popular with young people in Japan, and so keyboard app Simeji recently conducted a survey asking Japanese people between the ages of 10 and 19 what their 2021 Tanabata wish is, collecting 3,544 responses. Let’s take a look at the top 10:

10. World peace
9. Passing the entrance exam to my first pick of schools
8. Getting good grades
7. For my future dream to come true
6. To grow taller

Academics carry a lot of cultural importance in Japan, and the difficulty of high school and university entrance exams means that students are often advised to have alternatives in mind if they don’t get into their top school of choice, so it’s not surprising to see two study-related wishes show up. Wishing for your future dreams to come true, meanwhile, sort of feels like it’s dodging the question, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re waiting until you get out of your teens to work out the specifics of what kind of life you want to have. Or maybe since many Tanabata wishes are displayed in public or semi-public places, everyone going with “future dream” simply doesn’t want to spell out all their aspirations for passersby to see.

5. To lose weight
4. To have fun every day
3. To get a boyfriend/girlfriend

A slender build has long been the ideal in Japan, but the extended coronavirus crisis seems to have made losing weight a particularly popular choice this year. “I haven’t been going outside very much during the pandemic, so I’ve put on weight” explained one respondent, while others’ weight wish was influenced by Tanabata coming right before the start of beach weather in Japan.

2. For my family to be healthy
1. For the coronavirus pandemic to end

Even in normal years, “for my family to be healthy” is an incredibly common Tanabata wish. With violent crime, traffic accidents, and other non-illness related causes claiming remarkably few lives in Japan, staying healthy is pretty close to a guarantee that you’re going to stay alive, and so even young people see their older relatives’ continued good health as something to be grateful for.

Of course, since last year the coronavirus has put a specific health issue first and foremost in people’s minds. While daily life in Japan hasn’t been disrupted by the pandemic to the same extent as some other countries, it’s still been an emotional strain on many individuals. Tanabata timing again might play a part, as the slow pace of vaccinations among the general public means that many people will likely be forgoing the traditional August visit to their parents’ or grandparents’ homes for the Obon holiday, so it’s no surprise that if they could have anything they want, a lot of people would like the pandemic to end ASAP.

Source: PR Times
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Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3)
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