Today I have a delightful Japanese story, The Heavenly Weaver, by Sachio Mitsukoshi, translated by Ann Herring and art direction by Kozo Shimizu. It was first published by Gakken (Japan) and published by Blackie and Son in the UK (both in 1975).
From what I can gather Gakken put out a series of these picture books in the 1970s – I have found pictures from The Grateful Crane, which look like the same setting, but with a different, but still dimensional, artwork style.
I’m not sure what the media is, perhaps clay or maybe salt dough. The clouds look like cotton wool and the season tapestry is painted cloth. The characters are dressed in ancient Japanese style.
The Heavenly Weaver is a traditional Japanese story. Princess Tanabata, the Sky-king’s daughter, sat at her loom every day and wove the seasons we have on earth. One day the Sky-king arranged for her to marry the Celestial Cowherd – whom she was very much in love with.
The Princess and the Cowherd were so happy as they wandered among the stars and clouds that they forgot to weave the tapestry and tend the cows.
So all the living creatures stopped moving, and the trees and plants faded and died.
The Sky-king couldn’t allow this to happen, so he separated the Weaver and the Cowherd by putting them on either side of the Milky Way and turned the Milky Way into a celestial river. But when he saw how sad the couple were, he allowed them to meet once a year if they were good. They meet on Midsummer Eve, and they say that if it rains that night the couple haven’t been allowed to meet and the rain is their tears. But when they meet, the birds form a bridge of wings across the Milky Way.