The festival of Tanabata matsuri in Japan 七夕

Must-see summer festival in Japan: Tanabata Star Festival

Around July 7 or August 7, depending on the region, the Japanese celebrate the Star Festival, during the Tanabata matsuri, born from the fusion of Japanese and Chinese legends. During this period, Japan was enlivened by colorful decorations that convey hope.

The Chinese legend of the herdsman and the weaver


To these versions of Japanese origin, was added the legend of the herdsman and the weaver, of Chinese origin, from which Japan imported (probably in the Nara era, 710-794) two slightly different versions, both linked to the stars Vega and Altair.

According to one of the versions, the seventh daughter of the God of Heaven (Tentei), was named Orihime "the weaver princess" (who, in legend, represents the star Vega), because she spent her days weaving magnificent brocades. One day, the latter decided to go visit Earth where she met Hikoboshi (Altair), "the star of the herdsman"), to whom she fell in love. They married and had two children. This displeased the God of heaven who sent a genie to seek his daughter to bring her back to him. Hikoboshi rushed after him, but Orihime's mother revealed a river, the Milky Way, and Hikiboshi was separated from his wife. From that day on, the two lovers did not stop crying, each on one side of the river. The God of Heaven moved, allowed them to meet once a year, on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. Legend has it that that night, magpies (long-tailed crows) build a bridge over "the river of heaven" to allow the two spouses to meet.

la légende du Bouvier et de la Tisserande

La légende du Bouvier et de la Tisserande

Regi51, Wikimedia

Slowly the holiday was adopted by young girls who began to make vows to find a soul mate. And, since the Edo period (1603-1868), all Japanese, including adult males and children to make a wish on the evening of Tanabatathe belief is that the two lovers will grant wishes to all.


Tanabata (七夕) means " 7 evenings " and this feast is celebrated on the seventh evening of the seventh month, a date which varies depending on the Gregorian calendar or the lunar calendar: July 7 or August 7. on that evening, many Japanese people gaze the sky to watch the stars Vega and Altair approaching the Milky Way.


Tanabata is a festival during which the Japanese hang their wishes on bamboo branches



The weaving workshop


Tanabata feast today


Today the star festival is distinguished by decorations made of bamboo branches (which recall the landmark role played by bamboo poles in the ancient tradition of Japan) on which the Japanese place tanzaku, small cards. vertical cardboard or colored paper on which they write a wish. Thus, they hope that the two stars will help achieve their wishes. We can see these colorful branches in houses or gardens, nurseries, schools, Shinto shrines but also some station halls and supermarkets.

Traditionally, the day after Tanabata, bamboo branches were burnt or thrown into the water to make wishes. Today, this custom is seldom followed and prohibited by the municipalities for safety and conservation. 

It is customary for lanterns to be hung from bamboo trees in all streets (again, this refers to the markers that were set for the obon, (ancestral worship). Wearing the yukata, a light cotton kimono, is required when walking in the streets and courtyards of shrines.





Les 7 ornements de Tanabata selon la tradition de Sendai, version miniature

Les 7 ornements de Tanabata selon la tradition de Sendai, version miniature

Laura Tomas Avellana

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