Sendai Tanabata Festival

Sendai Tanabata Festival
Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, is one of the oldest and most spectacular festivals in Japan. Originally held on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, it is now celebrated on July 7 of the Gregorian calendar. Tanabata is widely celebrated throughout Japan, but the most famous Tanabata festival is held in the city of Sendai from August 6 to 8 each year.

The Tanabata Festival originates from the Chinese Qixi Festival, also known as the Qiqiao Festival, the Double Seventh Festival, or the Chinese Valentine’s Day. Both festivals were inspired by the Chinese folklore tale titled “The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd” about two lovers who were separated by the river because their love was not allowed and could only meet once a year.

In the Japanese tradition, Tanabata celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively. The two lovers were separated by Orihime’s father, Tentei, and were allowed to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month. However, when they tried to meet for the first time, they found that there was no bridge over the river that separated them. Orihime began to cry, and a flock of magpies made a bridge with their wings to help her cross the river.

The Tanabata Festival was introduced to Japan in the 8th century. It gained widespread popularity by the early 17th century, when it became mixed with various Shinto traditions and local customs. Following the adoption of the Gregorian calendar during the Meiji period modernization, the festival was moved from the 7th day of the 7th lunar month to July 7.

Large-scale Tanabata celebrations are held in many cities throughout Japan, but the most famous Tanabata Festival takes place in the city of Sendai. The Sendai Tanabata Festival began shortly after the city was founded in 1600. Its popularity began to dwindle after the Meiji Restoration, but a group of volunteers revived the festival in 1928. Since then, the Sendai Tanabata Festival has been held almost every year.

The Sendai Tanabata Festival lasts for three days, from August 6 to 8. One of the festival’s main highlights is the decoration competition. In Sendai, people traditionally use seven kinds of decorations, with each having a different symbolic meaning. These decorations are paper strips with wishes, paper kimonos, paper cranes, purses, nets, trash bags, and streamers.

Traditional decorations are displayed in downtown Sendai and neighboring shopping districts. Festival events and activities at the Sendai festival include workshops, stage performances, a food court, and spectacular illuminations.

Sendai Tanabata Festival

Photo: sato_ichi




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