Tanabata is a festival which is inspired by an Japanese adaptation of a traditional Chinese folk story of two heavenly lovers. These lovers are represented by the stars Vega and Altair. The star Vega is called "Orihime" in Japanese, which means "The Weaving Princess". The star Altair is called "Hikoboshi", which means "Cow Herder Star". According to the story when these two stars married they forgot about weaving and cow herding and this angered Orihime's father, who separated them by the Milky Way (called in Japanese "Amanogawa" lit. "heavenly river"). The princess was so saddened by this, that eventually her father allowed them to meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month.
Originally this festival was celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month in the Japanese lunisolar calendar, but now many places in Japan (including in Kyoto) celebrate it on July 7th of the Gregorian calendar. However, there are still some places in Japan that celebrate it according to the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar.
It said that if it rains on Tanabata the lovers won't meet that year. Unfortunately the move to the Gregorian calendar places the festival in the summer rainy season, meaning there's a high chance of it raining. The 7th day of the 7th month in the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar falls some time in August on the Gregorian calendar (exact Gregorian date varies each year) which is a drier time of the year.
There are various kinds of decorations that are put up for Tanabata. In Kyoto these normally go up on July 1st and stay up until about July 9th. One popular activity for young children, is to write wishes with permanent markers on coloured plastic strips which are placed on bamboo branches. This photo was taken on the Saigokukaido a traditional highway that ran between Osaka and Kyoto, there are still parts of it remaining. Unfortunately each year one or two of the traditional houses along it are knocked down and replaced with modern ones, so I wonder just how much longer we can enjoy this traditional scenery.
This this photo was captured in with a Nikon D700 and an AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED lens. No post processing has been done on this image.