What’s Tanabata? 8 Facts You Should Know!

What's Tanabata? 8 Facts You Should Know!

Have you heard of Tanabata or star festival in Japan? Although there are a lot of traditions in my home country, Tanabata is one of my favorites. Here, I would like to introduce 8 stories you should know about Tanabata.



 

What’s Tanabata? 8 Facts You Should Know!

 

1. What is Tanabata?

Tanabata (七夕) is also known as Star Festival and is held on July 7th every year. We usually make wishes and gaze stars on that day. In older times, Chinese people believed that if they wished for the stars –Vega and Altair, which is the most blight stars on Tanabata, their skills would be improved. And Japanese people imported this tradition. In addition to the tradition from China, we had a purification ceremony called Tanabata (棚機) on the same day. Tanabata is now thought to be the one that combined these traditions.

 

2. Tanabata story

Tanabata story in Japan is thought to be inspired by the two stars Vega and Altair since those two stars look very bright on each side of Milky Way. Here is a story about Altair (Hikoboshi) and Vega (Orihime). Once upon a time, a god had a daughter named Orihime. Since she was very hard working but didn’t have a partner, the god decided to find a good boy for her. The god found a boy named Hikoboshi who was also nice and hardworking and introduced him to Orihime. Hikoboshi and Orihime fell in love and they got married. After the marriage, they really enjoyed being together. But at the same time, they forgot about work. Looking at this, the god got very angry and he separated them with a huge river called Amanogawa. After that, both Hikoboshi and Orihime were so sad that they couldn’t even work but cried and cried every single day. The god felt very sorry to look at them, so he decided that they could meet only once a year, on Tanabata. So Tanabata is the only meeting day for the couple –sad but kind of romantic.

 

3. Amanogawa

Amanogawa is known as Milky Way in English. People in other culture would think it looks like spilled milk while we believe it looks like a river that consists of thousands of stars. When it is nice out on Tanabata, you can see this Amanogawa over the sky at night. Don’t for get to find Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair) as well!

 

4. Making wishes

On Tanabata, as I wrote above, Hikoboshi and Orihime can meet. But some Japanese people think that they cannot cross Amanogawa if it rains. So many people wish for Hikoboshi and Orihime’s happiness as well as what they want themselves. We usually write down our wishes on a colorful trip of paper called Tanzaku and put it on a bamboo tree. Why don’t you try making wishes in this way on Tanabata?

 

5. Tanabata decoration

There are 7 traditional decorations of Tanabata and they have different meanings; -Tanzaku: wishes coming true and better hand writing-Kamigoromo (paper clothing): better at sawing
-Ori-zuru (paper crane): long life
-Kinchaku (drawstring pouch): saving money
-Toami (casting net): better haul
-Kuzukago (trash can): keeping things tidy
-Fukinagashi (streamer): better at weaving.

When you visit festivals, you’ll find these decorations, but you can also make these with origami –which is a traditional Japanese way of folding papers. Let’s prepare for the next Tanabata by making decorations by yourself!

 

6. Tanabata song

There is a song called Tanabata. Japanese people often sing or listen to the song on Tanabata –especially this is popular among smaller kids. Since the song is very short and simple, you can practice by yourself, too!

 

7. Famous Tanabata festivals in Japan

The way we celebrate Tanabata varies depending on which region we live in. Some parts of the country still use the lunar calendar for the event. Two major Tanabata festivals are held in Sendai (Miyagi) and in Hiratsuka (Kanagawa). These are famous for their wonderful decorations. Each shopping street decorate as they like and compete each other. Other than that, a lot of events such as traditional Japanese dancing and parades are held during the festivals. Find your favorite decorations while enjoying the festival.

 

8. Tanabata all over the world

As I wrote above, Tanabata story originally came from China. Not only Japan and China, there are various kinds of Tanabata stories all over the world including Europe and Asia. For example, in Korea, Tanabata is thought to be the day for couples and they give some gifts to each other. Although there are not so many countries hold festivals like in Japan, it would be interesting to find out different stories about Tanabata. Do your home countries have Tanabata stories?

 

Conclusion

We have many traditions and stories related to Tanabata. Although it is held only once a year, Tanabata is a festival that any people in different age groups can enjoy. When you visit Japan over the summer, don’t miss this fun tradition!

 

What’s Tanabata? 8 Facts You Should Know!

1. What is Tanabata?
2. Tanabata story
3. Amanogawa
4. Making wishes
5. Tanabata decoration
6. Tanabata song
7. Famous Tanabata festivals in Japan
8. Tanabata all over the world