Star Festival in Japan
The Star Festival, also known as Tanabata in Japan, is a traditional and popular event that celebrates the annual meeting of two celestial lovers. The festival is held on the 7th day of the 7th month, which is usually July 7th, but some regions in Japan celebrate it in August, based on the lunar calendar.
The origin of the Star Festival in Japan dates back to the 8th century and is based on a Chinese legend. The story revolves around two lovers, Orihime, the weaving princess, and Hikoboshi, the cowherd, who are represented by the stars Vega and Altair, respectively. According to the legend, the lovers were separated by the Milky Way and were only allowed to meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. The Japanese adaptation of this tale began during the Nara period and became more widespread during the Edo period, with the establishment of various customs and traditions.
National customs for the Star Festival in Japan
One of the most well-known customs of the Star Festival in Japan is the decoration of bamboo branches with colorful paper strips called "tanzaku" and various ornaments. People write their wishes on the tanzaku and hang them on the bamboo, along with other decorations such as origami cranes, paper nets, and more. The bamboo is then displayed outside homes or in public places, symbolizing the Milky Way. It is believed that the higher the bamboo branch, the closer the wishes will be to the celestial lovers, increasing the chance of the wishes being granted.
Another significant custom is the organization of various events and activities during the festival. These include parades, traditional dance performances, live concerts, and fireworks displays. The streets are often filled with food stalls, offering traditional Japanese treats and delicacies.
Local customs for the Star Festival in Japan
While the Star Festival is celebrated throughout Japan, some regions have developed their own unique customs and traditions. For example, in the city of Sendai, the festival is known for its elaborate and grand decorations, with massive bamboo branches adorned with thousands of colorful paper strips and ornaments. The city holds a week-long celebration with various events, attracting visitors from all over the country and even from abroad.
In another region, Shonan Hiratsuka, the festival is celebrated with a massive Tanabata parade, featuring vibrant floats, traditional costumes, and energetic dance performances. The parade is considered one of the largest Tanabata celebrations in Japan.
The Star Festival, or Tanabata, is a charming and deeply rooted tradition in Japan that showcases the country's rich history and cultural heritage. With its colorful decorations, heartfelt wishes, and lively celebrations, the festival continues to enchant people of all ages, making it an unforgettable experience for both locals and visitors alike.