Tanabata or, たなばた, (七夕, meaning "Evening of the seventh"),
also known as the Star Festival, is a
Japanese festival originating
from the Chinese Qixi Festival. It celebrates the meeting of the
deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars
Altair respectively). According to legend, the
Milky Way separates
these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the
seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. The
Tanabata varies by region of the country, but the first
festivities begin on 7 July of the Gregorian calendar. The celebration
is held at various days between July and August.
6 Sendai festival
7 G8 summit in 2008
8 See also
10 External links
The festival was introduced to Japan by the
Empress Kōken in 755.
It originated from "The Festival to Plead for Skills" (乞巧奠,
Kikkōden), an alternative name for Qixi,:9 which was celebrated in
China and also was adopted in the Kyoto Imperial Palace from the Heian
The festival gained widespread popularity amongst the general public
by the early Edo period,:19 when it became mixed with various Obon
or Bon traditions (because Bon was held on 15th of the seventh month
then), and developed into the modern
Tanabata festival. Popular
customs relating to the festival varied by region of the
country,:20 but generally, girls wished for better sewing and
craftsmanship, and boys wished for better handwriting by writing
wishes on strips of paper. At this time, the custom was to use dew
left on taro leaves to create the ink used to write wishes.
Incidentally, Bon is now held on 15 August on the solar calendar,
close to its original date on the lunar calendar, making
Bon separate events.
Tanabata is remotely related to the Japanese reading of the
Chinese characters 七夕, which used to be read as "Shichiseki" (see
explanation about the various kanji readings). It is believed that a
Shinto purification ceremony existed around the same time[further
explanation needed], in which a
Shinto miko wove a special cloth on a
loom called a tanabata (棚機) and offered it to a god to pray for
protection of rice crops from rain or storm and for good harvest later
in autumn. Gradually this ceremony merged with Kikkōden to become
Tanabata[further explanation needed]. The Chinese characters 七夕
and the Japanese reading
Tanabata joined to mean the same festival,
although originally they were two different things, an example of
Japanese woodblock print of
Tanabata festivities in Edo (Tokyo), 1852,
Display of Edo
Tanabata at Fukagawa Edo Museum
Like Qixi and Chilseok,
Tanabata was inspired by the famous Chinese
folklore story, "The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl". Some versions were
included in the Man'yōshū, the oldest extant collection of waka
poetry.:25[better source needed]
The most popular version is as follows::1
Orihime (織姫, Weaving Princess), daughter of the Tentei (天帝,
Sky King, or the universe itself), wove beautiful clothes by the bank
of the Amanogawa (天の川, Milky Way, lit. "heavenly river"). Her
father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every
day to weave it. However, Orihime was sad that because of her hard
work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned
about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi (彦星,
Cowman/Cowherd Star, or literally
Boy Star) (also referred to as
Kengyuu (牽牛)) who lived and worked on the other side of the
Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each
other and married shortly thereafter. However, once married, Orihime
no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows
to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers
across the Amanogawa and forbade them to meet. Orihime became
despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them
meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the
two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if she worked hard and
finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they
found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge.
Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to
make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It
is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the
two lovers must wait until another year to meet.
Orihime and Hikoboshi are called various names in the different
versions of the story.:10
Asagao-hime ("Morning Glory Princess")
Ito-ori-hime ("Thread-Weaving Princess")
Momoko-hime ("Peach-Child Princess")
Takimono-hime ("Incense Princess")
Sasagani-hime ("Spider Princess")
Tanzaku hanging on bamboo
In present-day Japan, people generally celebrate this day by writing
wishes, sometimes in the form of poetry, on tanzaku (短冊, tanzaku),
small pieces of paper, and hanging them on bamboo, sometimes with
other decorations (see also Wish Tree). The bamboo and decorations are
often set afloat on a river or burned after the festival, around
midnight or on the next day. This resembles the custom of floating
paper ships and candles on rivers during Obon. Many areas in Japan
have their own
Tanabata customs, which are mostly related to local
Obon traditions. There is also a traditional
Sasa no ha sara-sara
Nokiba ni yureru
Goshiki no tanzaku
watashi ga kaita
sora kara miteru
The bamboo leaves rustle,
shaking away in the leaves.
The stars twinkle
on the gold and silver grains of sand.
The five-colour paper strips
I have already written.
The stars twinkle,
they watch us from heaven.
Tanabata date was based on the Japanese lunisolar
calendar, which is about a month behind the Gregorian calendar. As a
result, some festivals are held on 7 July, some are held on a few days
around 7 August (according to the "One-Month Delay" way), while the
others are still held on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of
the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar, which is usually in
August in the Gregorian Calendar.
The Gregorian dates of "the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of
the Japanese lunisolar calendar" for the coming years are:
2018: August 17
2019: August 7
2020: August 25
2021: August 14
2022: August 4
Tanabata Festival in 2005
Tanabata festivals are held in many places in Japan,
mainly along shopping malls and streets, which are decorated with
large, colorful streamers. The most famous
Tanabata festival is held
in Sendai from 6 to 8 August. In the Kantō area, two of the largest
Tanabata festivals are held in
Hiratsuka, Kanagawa (around 7 July) and
in Asagaya, Tokyo immediately prior to the start of the
in mid August. A
Tanabata festival is also held in São Paulo, Brazil
around the first weekend of July and Los Angeles,
California in the
beginning of August.
Tanabata festivals vary by region, most festivals involve
Tanabata decoration competitions. Other events may include parades and
Tanabata contests. Like other Japanese matsuri, many outdoor
stalls sell food, provide carnival games, etc., and add to the festive
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea often celebrates the Tanabata
Festival featuring a greeting parade with Mickey as
Altair and Minnie
In a shopping mall at Morioka, 2003
Asagaya, Suginami Ward in Tokyo, 2009
The Sendai festival began shortly after the city was founded in the
early Edo Period. The
Tanabata festival gradually developed and became
larger over the years. Although the festival's popularity started to
dwindle after the Meiji Restoration, and almost disappeared during the
economic depression that occurred after World War I, volunteers in
Sendai revived the festival in 1928 and established the tradition of
holding the festival from 6 to 8 August.
World War II
World War II it was impossible to hold the festival, and almost
no decorations were seen in the city from 1943 to 1945, but after the
war, the first major
Tanabata festival in Sendai was held in 1946, and
featured 52 decorations. In 1947, the Showa Emperor
Sendai and was greeted by 5,000
Tanabata decorations. The festival
subsequently developed into one of the three major summer festivals in
Tōhoku region and became a major tourist attraction. The festival
now includes a fireworks show that is held on 5 August.
At the Sendai
Tanabata festival, people traditionally use seven
different kinds of decorations, which each represent different
meanings. The seven decorations and their symbolic meanings are:
Paper strips (短冊, Tanzaku): Handwritten wishes for a good future
to the earth and a thanks note
Paper crane (折り鶴, Orizuru): Origami decoration
Purse (巾着, Kinchaku): Decoration for good business
Net (投網, Toami): Paper decoration for good fishing
Trash bag (くずかご, Kuzukago): Paper decoration for cleanliness
Streamers (吹き流し, Fukinagashi): Paper tubular streamer
The ornamental ball (薬玉; Kusudama) often decorated above streamers
Tanabata decorations was originally conceived in 1946
by the owner of a shop in downtown Sendai. The ball was originally
modelled after the dahlia flower. In recent years, box-shaped
ornaments have become popular alternatives to the ornamental ball.
G8 summit in 2008
Participating leaders at the 34th G8 summit
In 2008, the
34th G8 summit
34th G8 summit in
Tōyako, Hokkaidō coincided with
Tanabata. As host,
Japanese Prime Minister
Japanese Prime Minister
Yasuo Fukuda invited
the G8 leaders to participate in the spirit of the festival. They were
each asked to write a wish on a piece of paper called tanzaku, to hang
the tanzaku on a bamboo tree, and then to take the necessary actions
to change the world for the better. As a symbolic gesture, the
actual writing and the act of hanging up that note is at least a first
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs made colored strips of paper
and a bamboo tree for G8 wishes available in
Roppongi during the
summit. Protesting organizations in
Sapporo during the G8 summit
also tried to use the spirit of
Tanabata to focus attention on a
somewhat different set of wishes. Non-governmental organizations
Oxfam and CARE International set up an online wish petition
campaign to coincide with the G8 Summit and Tanabata. Outside
Japan, Fukuda's timely gesture had unanticipated consequences. For
example, the Indian nationally circulated newspaper, The Hindu, picked
up on this festival theme by printing an editorial featuring
Fukuda also invited his fellow citizens to try turning off the lights
in their house and stepping outside to enjoy with their family the
sight of the
Milky Way in the night sky. On 7 July, the Japanese
Ministry of the Environment anticipated that over 70,000 facilities
and households across Japan would switch off their lights from 20:00
to 22:00 as a symbolic step and as a wish for the future.
Sekidera Komachi, a famous
Noh play set during the
^ Brown, Ju; Brown, John (2006). China, Japan, Korea: Culture and
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^ "Celebrate Disney
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^ 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum. " About Tanzaku Action – One
Million Wishes," July 2008.
^ Saito, Mari and Sophie Hardach. "G8 leaders to wish upon a bamboo
tree at summit," Reuters. 2 July 2008.
^ Japan, MOFA: "Setting up of the Public Relations Booth for the G8
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^ Oxfam: "Tanabata: Your wishes to the Summit!" July 2008.
^ Cooper, Andrew F. and Ramesh Takur. "Wishing on a star for the G8
The Hindu (Chennai). 7 July 2008.
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^ "Lights to be turned off at 72,000 facilities on
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