Sendai – Tanabata Festival

Tanabata festivals are a colourful commemoration of the meeting of the star-crossed lovers, Altair and Vega. In eastern folklore, the 7th day of the 7th month is when they can finally meet and unite in the “star festival”. Tanabata festivals are celebrated throughout Japan and you will find colourful wishes strung up on bamboo from the smallest preschool to the largest corporate offices.

The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, occurring annually from August 6th to 8th, stands as one of Japan’s largest and most renowned tanabata festivities. Spanning downtown Sendai, the festival is distinguished by vibrant streamers embellishing the city’s shopping arcades, transforming them into enchanting, colourful forests. Crafted meticulously by local shops, schools, and community organisations from washi paper and bamboo, each set of streamers, measuring 3-5 metres in length, hangs from ten-metre bamboo poles lining the arcades.

In addition to these streamers, symbolising the threads of a loom, smaller paper ornaments contribute to the festivities. These include colourful kimono for warding off illness and accidents, nets for bountiful harvests, cranes for longevity and well-being, purses for prosperity, rubbish bags for cleanliness, and paper strips for improved penmanship. These charms are often inscribed with wishes and suspended from bamboo branches or integrated into the streamer designs. The festivities begin with a spectacular fireworks display illuminating the night sky on the eve of the event, August 5th around Nishi Park.