If you’re in Japan in July or August, don’t miss Tanabata Festival.Simply put, its one of the most beautiful festivals in the Japanese tradition.

Photo Credit: By Aimaimyi (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons The Star festival in Japan is held in most towns, villages, and cities. Beautiful colorful decorations, floaters and displays are positioned along the Main Streets. In the larger cities the Star festival involves shopping malls, which are decorated with stunning, colorful streamers and amazing colorful decorations. It is fun to make your way along the decorated streets and take in the fantastic traditional displays . Children love it and it’s an amazing experience for adults too.

In some areas, residents light lanterns and then place them in the river where they float along – it’s quite the sight to see. If you are in Tokyo during the festival days you will want to make sure you join the fun.

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What is the Tanabata Festival?

Tanabata Festival, also called the Japanese Star Festival, is an ancient Japanese tradition where a person writes their wishes on small colorful strips of paper (tanzaku paper) and then they are hung on bamboo branches. The Bamboo branches are decorated with bright paper decorations, and then placed in front of the house.

Tanabata Background

  • This is one of the oldest festivals dating back more than 2,000 years. It’s believed to have started in China.
  • During the feudal period, it made its way to Japan.
  • By the Edo period, it became popular among the general public.
  • Before long commoners throughout Japan were observing and celebrating the festival, developing their own unique traditions of celebrating
  • Soon it was combined with other Japanese traditions and customs, and become what is the modern day Tanabata Festival

When Is Tanabata Star Festival In Tokyo?

From July 1 through 7 Tokyo celebrates the Tanabata or Star Festival. Decorations, floaters and special food stalls and parades  embellish the city.

Tanabata Star Festival Dates Throughout Japan

July 7th or August 7th are the celebration dates depending on the region. In the lunar calendar, this is around the 7th day of the 7th month.

Sendai and Hiratsuka (not far from Tokyo) are two cities that are famous for their elaborate celebrations. In Hiratsuka, where the largest Tanabata festival occurs, it is held for several days around July 7. Sendai is known for its amazing displays, the festival is held from August 6 – 8.

Recommended Tours for Tanabata Star Festival:
Mt. Fuji
Kyoto and Nara
Studio Ghibli Museum – The Disney Of The East
Tokyo Robot Restaurant Cabaret Show
Nikko National Park Day Trip from Tokyo
One Day Tour of Kamakura from Tokyo

More Highlights: Fun Day Tours and Activities in Tokyo itself

Festival Customs

The dates of the festival may vary by regions but almost all of them involve competitions for the decorating. In addition, there are often Miss Tanabata contests, parades, carnival games, outdoor food sales, and more. It’s a very festive atmosphere that locals and tourists alike have a great time participating in.

Tokyo Disneyland Featuring Star Festival

Tokyo Disneyland  features a greeting parade with Mickey as Altari and Minnie as Vega. Disneyland has cast members dressed in yukata who are handing out pieces of paper shaped like Mickey Mouse for people to write their wishes on. When you have finished writing your wishes, you can tie it to the central stand or to one of the smaller ones located around the central one. Mickey, Minnie, and the gang all hang their wishes from the big bamboo tree.

The special parade in honor of Tanabata includes a marching band playing the traditional Tanabata song. Mickey and Minnie arriving in rickshaws as the two celestial beings along with some other Disney characters to celebrate the Tanabata season.

See More: How to Get to Tokyo Disney

Tanabata Story

Orihime, was a weaving princess and daughter of Tentei the Sky King. She wove the most beautiful clothes along the banks of the Amanogawa (the Milky River). Her father, the Sky King loved the cloth Orihime wove daily. However, Orihime was very sad, because she spent her days weaving, but wanted to fall in love.

So Tentai arranged for Orihime to meet Hikoboshi, the Cow Herder Star. Hikoboshi lived and worked on the other side of the Milky River. Orihime and Hikoboshi fell in love instantly and were married shortly after.

However, once they were married they were constantly playing. Orihime no longer weaved and Hikoboshi let his cows stray across the Heavens. Both of them completely forgot all about their jobs.

The Sky King was very angry with them and so he separated them by placing them on opposite sides of the Amanogawa River (the Milky Way). With the loss of her husband, Orihime became unhappy and begged her father to allow them to meet again. The King was moved by the tears of his daughter, and so he would allow a meeting once a year in the 7th month on the 7th day of the lunar calendar. Tanabata means ‘the night of the 7th.”

The first time they were allowed to meet, they were unable to because there was no bridge for them to cross the river. Orihime cried so long that a flock of magpies promised to use their wings to make a bridge. It is believed if it is rainy during the day the magpies can’t come and build the bridge so that Hikoboshi and Orihime can see each other, so people pray for good weather, and make their own wishes too.

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Tokyo Trip Checklist

  • To make sure you have all the important things covered see my first-time-in-Tokyo guide
  • Get your 1,2 or 3-day Tokyo Unlimited Subway Pass to easily get around Tokyo
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  • The best site to book hotels in Tokyo is almost always Booking.com. And remember to book early, especially during busy times.
  • For travel insurance (which you need) Word Nomads offer great coverage in Japan and are highly recommended.

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