Tanabata Festival

Summer is on its way and that means the start of many festivals (祭 – matsuri) once again. One of the upcoming ones is the Tanabata Festival (七夕祭), also known as the Star Festival. 

There is a sad love story behind the festival. The short version is that a couple forced into separation are only allowed to meet once a year on 7th of July. The birds would come and form a bridge so that the husband could go to his wife.

Historically, it is also the day where people pray for a good harvest for the following year. Said to have originated from China, the festival is over 2000 years old. People celebrate by playing music and by hanging their wishes on a bamboo. You will see 7 types of decorations on the bamboo poles, each signifying a different wish. They are paper kimono (kamigoromo), a thousand paper cranes, (sennbatsuru), paper strips (tanzaku), net (toami), trash bags (kuzukago), purse (kinchaku) and streamers (fukinagashi).

Paper strips decorations that represent a wish for good handwriting and success in studies. Creative Commons: Vanessa Smith

What can you expect to see?

You can catch the parade and a reenactment of the love story that is said to have inspired the festival. There will also be tons of food and little performances throughout the day.

A tanabata street parade. Photo credits: Kiks Balayon
A performance by a maid cafe. Photo credits: Mark

At certain places, you can write your wishes on strips of paper and tie them to a bamboo. One such place is Tokyo Disney Resort. At both Disneyland and Disneysea, you will be able to hang your wishes on Tanabata decorations provided in the resort (more information about this below).

Tanabata decoration at Disneyland. Photo credits: Sidonald

The actual day of the festival is 7th of July but celebrations take place between July and August. You can take part in the celebrations in Tokyo at the following places:

1) Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri (下町七夕まつり)

Date: 4th July to 10th July (Main event on 5th and 6th July)

Venue: Kappabashi Dori (かっぱ橋本通り)

More information (Japanese) here.

2) Asagaya Tanabata Matsuri (阿佐谷七夕まつり)

Date: 6th August to 10th August

More information (Japanese) here.

3) Disney Tanabata Days

Date: 24th June to 7th July

Venue: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea

More information (English) here.