Japan’s Star Festival: Tanabata!

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Tanabata

Tanabata (七夕), also known as the “star festival”, is a much-loved summer festival which takes place every July 7th in Japan.

Tanabata

The festival is based on the story of a heavenly princess (Orihime-identified with the Vega Star-)who wove beautiful garments in the heavens and fell in love with a hardworking heavenly cowherd (Hikoboshi- identified with the Altair Star-).

Tanabata

Her father, Tentei, King of heaven, willingly permitted their marriage, but since Orihime and Hikoboshi had a too happy marriage life, Orihime ceased her garment making work, and Hikoboshi stopped cattle driving, which upset Tentei.

Tanabata

As punishment the king separated the two by the milky way so that they could only meet on the 7th day of the 7th lunisolar month. In the modern calendar this date is now July 7th!

Tanabata

The festival is celebrated locally in a variety of different ways but some mainstays of Tanabata include star motifs and the practice of writing wishes on colorful pieces of paper or “tanzaku” which are hung on bamboo tree branches in hopes they might come true.

In Tokyo’s Zojoji Temple, a display of lanterns is set up along the temple steps to symbolize the milky way from the story. This display has become quite the popular destination for this holiday.

Japan culture article brought to you by Consulate General Japan in Miami