Stars over ‘Imiloa: Free event celebrates Subaru Telescope anniversary, Tanabata Festival

This year marks a remarkable milestone for Subaru Telescope as it celebrates its 20th anniversary of outstanding research and extensive community outreach on Hawaii Island. Subaru Telescope has partnered with the Hawaii Japanese Center, the Hilo Meishoin Tsukikage Odorikai, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Industry of Hawaii and ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center to commemorate this impressive achievement by hosting an admission free celebratory event from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Sunday.

This event will also observe the annually held Tanabata Festival and to thank the community for its support of Subaru Telescope. This free-admission, family friendly event at ‘Imiloa is made possible by Subaru Telescope and National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. Scrips will be sold at a nominal fee for food and select activities.

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“Over the last 20 years, Subaru Telescope has conducted 3,600 nights of observation and produced over 1,900 scientific papers. From finding exoplanets and mapping dark matter, to observing galaxies over 12 billion light-years from Earth, we take pride in our numerous significant discoveries,” said Subaru Telescope’s Director, Dr. Michitoshi Yoshida.

“We are indebted to the people of the Big Island for their support. To express our arigato (thank you or gratitude), we are very excited to partner with ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, JCCIH, and HJC to celebrate our 20th anniversary at the Tanabata Star Festival. This admission-free event is funded by donations from the staff of the TMT-Japan office at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan,” Yoshida added.

The annual Tanabata, or star festival, is celebrated on July 7 in Japan. This festival traces its origins to a legend that the Cow-herd Star (Altair) and Weaver Star (Vega), lovers separated by the Milky Way, are allowed to meet just once a year — on the seventh day of the seventh month. Though there are several different versions, the core of the story remains the same. It is based on a Chinese folktale titled “The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd.” In Japan, children and adults write their wishes on tanzaku (colorful narrow strips of papers) and hang them on bamboo trees along with other decorations. They then pray hard for their wishes to come true.

The Hawaii Japanese Center has staged a very popular Tanabata Festival aimed at the community for the past three years.

“Thanks to our partnership with the members of the Tsukikage Odorikai bon dance group and our HJC volunteers, we have provided such cultural activities as kimono dressing and picture-taking, tanzaku (wishes), nagashi somen, and a wide variety of children’s games and make-and-take crafts. This year, we are pleased to participate in this joint project with Subaru Telescope and the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center along with support from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawaii in order to reach an even larger audience,” said Arnold Hiura, president and executive director of HJC.

This year’s celebration will start with a taiko drum performance followed by the making of Tanzaku wishes, kimono fashion show, puppet story-telling, somen-nagashi, calligraphy, kokeshi doll making, origami, bon dance and a variety of hands-on activities for all ages to enjoy. Coveted door prizes will be distributed to lucky winners attending the planetarium presentations.

In addition HJC’s celebration of Tanabata for the general community, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Industry of Hawaii annually organizes a Tanabata Festival event that is targeted towards the business community.

“In 2014, Dr. Nobuo Arimoto, former director of Subaru Telescope, presented the festival idea to the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Industry of Hawaii Education Committee. His goal was to create an event that would help connect Subaru Telescope’s staff with members of the community. The education committee chair at the time, Audrey Takamine, helped shape this idea into one of JCCIH’s most popular annual events,” according to President of JCCIH, Steve Ueda. “Tanabata blends culture, music, singing, and food. JCCIH is excited and honored to be a part of this festival and we look forward to perpetuate and grow this event that celebrates both the Japanese culture and our fascination and love of the stars and astronomy,” added Ueda. For more information on JCCIH, visit www.jccih.org.

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‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off of Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH-Hilo Science and Technology Park. Call 808-932-8901.

For more information on Subaru Telescope, visit https://subarutelescope.org. For more information on HJC, visit www.hawaiijapanesecenter.com.

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