Man-made milky way shines through Japanese metropolis

By Motoko Kakubayashi 13/07/2010

To celebrate this year’s star festival, 50,000 LED lights were released into an Osaka river to depict the real stars which are usually blinded by city lights.

"The Legend of Osaka Amanogawa" event in Osaka, Japan
"The Legend of Osaka Amanogawa" event in Osaka, Japan

July 7 marks Tanabata, a summer night festival celebrating the legend of Orihime and Hikoboshi, two lovers separated by a river of stars, the Milky Way, who are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar.

But the problem for many Japanese people in recent years has been that the millions of street lights have made it impossible to see any stars.  To address the challenge, “The Legend of Osaka Amanogawa” was established in 2009, and invites people to make a wish upon an Inori-boshi, or prayer star.  The palm-sized plastic sphere has a built-in blue LED light, which drifts down Ohkawa (river) at night, creating an artificial starry sky.

The positive reception the event had received last year meant that this year, numbers of inori-boshi had more than doubled from 20,000 lights to 50,000.

Event organisers had said this year’s event had a more water eco-friendly theme to it.

As reported on their website, they had said that all inori-boshi lights were powered by low power consumption, long life LEDs using lithium coin cells which will  be properly disposed of at the end.  The inori-boshi had all been recaptured after the event and will be re-used next year.

On top of this, tanzaku paper slips (paper strips usually used to write wishes on during Tanabata) distributed at this year’s festival had been made from recycled materials, including 20 per cent lake papyrus – common wetland reeds (phragmites australis).

In doing so, event organisers said they had wanted to make people aware of the natural water-treatment properties of reeds in Japan’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Biwa.

It has been known that reeds can purify waste water from bathrooms, toilets, and kitchens, making the water suitable for irrigation.

The amount of reeds used in each tanzaku paper slip would be enough to treat 54 litres of water in Lake Biwa.

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