Featured image by ajpcs at flickr
Tanabata in common language means “Evening of the Seventh.” In the modern times, it is also known as the “Star Festival.” Tabanata originated in China from the Chinese Qixi Festival, which was adopted and introduced by Empress Koken during the Heian period. It had gained popularity among the public during the Edo period when it got combined with traditional local customs to become an official event at the Imperial court. It takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month of the year. As stated in the Chinese legend, the two separated stars Altair and Vega, are able to meet each other during this time of the year.
But what really was the romantic tale behind these two stars? A Chinese tale, Kikkoden, a legend that happened more than 2,000 years ago, about a beautiful princess named Orihime, the daughter of God of Heaven. She weaves cloth for her father and had been working so hard that made her father worry about her so he decided to introduce her to a cow herder named Hikoboshi. The two fell in love so much that made them forget their respected duties, cloth remained unwoven, cows remained unattended that made the Heaven God so upset and decided to separate them as punishment. The separation made the princess so sad that she wept all day. This made the Heaven God change his decision and he allowed them to see each other again but with conditions: they are only permitted to see each other once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month of the year only when the weather is good.
July is also the flowering period of rice. This is also the time to worry about flood, crops being damaged and pests. Japanese wished for the safety of their harvest so they offered prayers written on a piece of paper. In the modern times, you will find houses decorated with bamboo branches with colorful narrow strips of paper where their wishes are written.
The World’s Most Elegant Festival of Paper and Bamboo
1. Sendai Tanabata Festival has been passed down through generations as a traditional event that dates back to the era of Date Masamune, the first lord of Sendai Domain. It takes place in downtown Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. So you will find Sendai in a great festive mood during this time that attracts more than two million visitors every year.
To write their fervent wishes, they use colorful tanzaku strips to write their wishes and hang them on bamboo trees along with the other colored paper decorations.
Sendai Tanabata Festival – August 6 – 8
Time: 10:00 – 22:00
Tanabata Fireworks – August 5
Time: 19:00 – 20:30
2. Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival. On a busy street, looking up at the luminous colors of yellow, pink, gold and blue banderoles or streamers hanging is filling up the merry mood in this place. You will see decorations hanging everywhere, from every streetlight, rooftop and even overhead line, each competing to be the biggest and most colorful display.
For its 67th year, the colorful festivities will center around the shopping street on the north side of Hiratsuka station. The official event will continue until 9:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and until 8:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Dates: July 7 – 9
Venue: Hiratsuka Station
3. Anjo Tanabata Festival. The three-day festival has been celebrated in early August since 1954. The colorful bamboo decorations wiggling in the wind is a wonderful sight, and at nighttime, trees are lit up with colorful lights. Dance performances and an event with more than 3,000 wish balloons are released into the air is only a part of the festival that visitors are looking forward to see. The festival is held throughout downtown from JR Anjo Station area to Meitetsu’s Minami Anjo Station area. Splendid attractions are brought out in succession during the festival, including the Miss Tanabata parade.
Every year, this festival attracts more than one million visitors, which, together with Sendai and Hiratsuka, the Tanabata Festival in Anjo is considered as one of the “Three Major Tanabata Festivals of Japan.”