Today is the Tanabata festival. There’s a pretty good explanation of it on this page but I’ll summarise it briefly.
According to legend, Tanabata is the one day in the year when the lovers Altair and Vega, who are separated by the Milky Way, are allowed to meet. People write wishes on pieces of paper, and tie these to bamboo branches. As far as I can tell, that’s it.
The bamboo has been out for a week now in front of the train station where I get off for work, and the bamboo already looks tired, brown, and generally dead. The paper wasn’t helped by some heavy rain a few days ago, either.