Throughout Japan, Tanabata is celebrated on July 7th every year. This famous festival originated from a Chinese Qixi festival which celebrates the annual meeting of a cowherd and a weaver girl according to Chinese Mythology.
In Japan, it is celebrated but using our unique Japanese traditions. Tanabata celebrates the annual meeting of Orihime, a weaver, and her husband, Hikoboshi, a cowherd, who are both represented by two stars( Vega and Altair) respectively. Our family celebrates this occasion by renovating and decorating our house. We hang vibrantly coloured, long paper strips from a broadleaf bamboo. The paper has handwritten wishes on them, thank you notes, and other decorations possessing symbolic meanings for Tanabata such as paper cranes, purses, nets, trash bags, etc. Japanese people hope that they will bring good luck and a good future for everyone. Furthermore, there are also large scale festivals that are held in many places in Japan, predominantly in shopping malls or streets which are celebrated with colourful streamers.
One of the most famous Tanabata festivals in Japan is held in Sendai from 6th August to 8th August. In addition, there are also some varieties of festivals which involve Tanabata decoration competitions. Other events might include something such as outdoor food sales, carnival games and fireworks. It is truly an unforgettable, sensational occasion which is celebrated throughout Japan.
The Tanabata festival has gained reputation since the early Edo period and has now evolved into what we know as the modern Tanabata festival. Back in the Edo period, most girls’ papers were filled with wishes for better sewing and craftsmanship whereas boys requested that their handwriting is improved. Nowadays children generally wish for better futures and a lucky year. Japanese people believe that through the tradition of writing wishes on paper strips, that these wishes will become true. The name Tanabata is closely related to the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character ??. In ancient times, this character was connected to the protection of rice crops from rainstorms so as to ensure a good harvest of rice in the autumn.Like the Chinese folk story, Tanabata is connected to the story of a cowherd and a weaver girl from China.
There are a couple of versions of this story. The most popular one, known by most of the Japanese people, takes place in a place called Amanogawa(referred as the Milky Way in English). What happens in this story is very similar to the Chinese story where two lovers named Orihime and Hikoboshi(also referred to as Kenkyuu) met but were separated from the Amanogawa. This was because after they got married, they began to neglect their work which made her furious father exile them to opposite sides of the Milky Way. They were both devastated after losing each other, so they begged Orihime’s father to allow them to meet and he agreed to the meeting but only on the 7th day of the 7th month. This is when this spectacular, picturesque festival takes place every year.