What is the Tanabata Festival in Japan?

Girls dressed in kimono visiting Fushimi Inari shrine during Motomiya festival.

What is the Tanabata Festival in Japan?

Japanese lantern with sakura

Everything you need to know about the Tanabata festival in Japan

Doing an internship in Japan means you can experience all the culture and festivals which Japan’s famous for. Today, I’ll be telling you about one of the most famous festivals of the year, Tanabata (also known as the star festival). Let’s look over its origins, rituals, and how people celebrate it in Japan.

The origins of Tanabata 

First, let me tell you a bit about the origins of the Tanabata festival. The festival celebrates the meeting of two famous deities, Vega and Altair. The festival begins on the 7th day of the 7th month(July 7th). This was the same day that these two star crossed lovers met, according to old folklore. Romantic right?

Tanabata festival in JapanTanabata rituals and customs

The most common ritual for Tanabata is to write a wish on a colorful piece of paper (tanzaku)and then hang it up on a small bamboo tree. This is done by Japanese people of all ages and can be found in temples, schools, and offices. I’ve put mine up in the office already.

These colorfully decorated bamboo trees (real or fake) add a bit of fun and can be done easily at home as well. If you want to make your tanzaku, all you need is a colorful strip of paper and some string. Then you too can write down your wish. Is it for an internship in Japan?

Tanabata festival in JapanTanabata festivals in Japan

The most famous Tanabata festival is held from August 6th-8th in Sendai prefecture. The streets fill with colorful tanzaku papers, amazing kimonos, and other traditional decorations for the event.

The festival ends with an amazing firework display, which averages around 500, 000 spectators every year. This is a must-see event if you want to truly experience the culture of Japan. 

How to make a tanzaku?

The most important part of the Tanabata festival is to make your wish on a colorful strip of paper, (tanzaku)here is how you do it.

  1. Cut out a rectangular strip of paper, roughly 12cm long and 4 cms wide. 
  2. Make a hole at the top, 1cm away from the edge.
  3. Right your wish down on the strip of paper. Feel free to decorate any empty space.
  4. Put some string through the hole at the top and hang it on a small piece of bamboo (or anywhere you can).

making tanzakuHow will you celebrate Tanabata? 

So now that you’ve heard about the origins, traditions, and festivals. How will you celebrate Tanabata this year? 

If you want to celebrate it with us here in Japan, come start your internship in Japan today. By sending us a message on our website.

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