Sendai Tanabata Matsuri is the most famous tanabata celebration in Japan which takes place in downtown Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. It is held every year on August 6th to 8th. Tohoku’s summer does not end without the celebration of the three great festivals of the Tohoku Region: Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, Akita Kanto Matsuri and Sendai Tanabata Matsuri. These are the main exciting summer highlights that Tohoku has to offer to its visitors. It is just unexpected letting the summer months pass by when one is unable to participate in a summer festival across Japan. In Japan, summer is the season of matsuri. So, come to Sendai in August, and you will find a great festive atmosphere.
Tanabata matsuri or star festival is seen to be a one of the most annual summer events that is admired by us. This festival is celebrated in various places throughout Japan. There are two biggest Tanabata festivals held in Japan: 1) Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival in Kanagawa, and 2) Tanabata festival in Sendai. While the Sendai Tanabata festival is far more popular than rest of the tanabata events celebrated in the country. It is just a colorful festival which in fact sounds very peaceful as well. Today I want to share everything about this exciting summer event including some travel trips to help you celebrated it quite brilliantly. I hope you enjoy reading it.
What is Tanabata?
The time has arrived to tell you about this event clearly. In general, throughout the nation, in accordance with the Chinese lunar calendar it takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month (July) of the year. Do you know why? According to the legend, the two stars Altair (Hikoboshi) and Vega (Orihime) separated by the Milky Way are only able to meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month.
The festival is celebrated based on a famous Japanese legend called “Tanabata”. The legend indicates that Orihime, a weaving princess and the daughter of the king of the sky lives on the eastern side of the heavenly river (Milky Way). On the other hand, Hikoboshi who lives on the western side of the river falls in love with Orihime. They both love each other very much.
Here, Orihime waves beautiful clothes for her father. It pleases him very much. As she falls in love with Hikoboshi, she neglects waving clothes for her beloved father. This makes her father to be very angry and he forbids the lovers not to meet each other again. Also it makes him decide to destroy the only bridge on the heavenly river. It is a heartbreaking incident for Orihime and makes her cry all the time. Seeing this, her father could not bear it. Therefore he allows his daughter to meet only once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month. A flock of magpies forms a bridge on the heavenly river so that two lovers could meet and share their feelings together.
If it rains on the day of Tanabata celebration, then the magpies would not come and two lovers will have to wait another year to be reunited. Therefore, Japanese always wish and hope for good weather on this day. Actually, the event celebrates the meeting of these two stars. That’s why Tanabata festival is always known as the Star festival in Japan.
When it comes to celebrating the Sendai Tanabata festival it does not follow the traditional lunar calendar date. As a result, people of Sendai celebrate it one month later than the old Chinese calendar which is on August 6 to 8.
History of Tanabata Matsuri
History says that the Sendai Tanabata Festival begun during the Edo Period (1603-1967). It means this tradition originated more than 400 years ago in Sendai when the city was built by Date Masmune (1567-1636). He was a legendary warrior who fought many battles with pride. In the old days the celebration of the festival was not like the one you experience in modern time.
The tradition of celebrating the festival from August 6th to 8th had begun after 1928. Due to World War II, the festival had to be suspended by the Imperial Japanese Army. The war hampered the life of Japanese. It was a great hard time to pass by. Though, to revive the city and bring back to normal life, the authority decided to celebrate it soon after the war ended. It was developed into a new impressive style and then it became the greatest Tanabata event in Japan. Today you just don’t observe thousands of colorful streamers but also parades, fireworks, concerts and food stalls to try some famous local specialties.
Sendai Tanabata Matsuri Highlights
Akita Kanto Matsuri: August 3rd to 6th
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri: August 2nd to 7th
Sendai Tanabata Matsuri: August 6th to 8th
One single trip to Tohoku in August would let to celebrate the above three great summer festivals of Tohoku region. You need only a week to spend there and this would lead you have a great summer holiday. Think of this trip and act accordingly.
Now, I have to tell you something about Sendai Tanabata Matsuri. Sendai is one of the most famous summer holiday destinations in Japan. Except celebrating this enchanting summer festival, it offers so many other things to explore. If you like traveling especially during summer then please visit Sendai.
In Sendai, people eagerly wait for the first day of the Tanabata celebration. The reason behind this is they all want to pray hard for their good fortune. They use tanzaku (strips of colored paper) for writing wishes to hang them on bamboo trees along with paper decorations. There is a saying that goes like this “if you pray hard then your wishes would come true”. I think you should believe in this!
Another highlight of this festival can be defined as – there are thousands of colorful decorated streamers that are hung in downtown Sendai shopping arcades and Sendai Station. The 3-5 meter long streamers are usually handcrafted by local shops owner, students and community groups out of washi paper and bamboo. What’s next? Then they are all hang from 10 meter long bamboo poles along the arcades. A display of such colorful decorations would surly blow your mind.
The places you could see the colorful Tanabata decorations in Sendai are: Ichibancho Shopping Arcade, Chuo Shopping Arcade, Shimin Hiroba Square and Kotodai Park. First explore the shopping area of Chuo Shopping Arcade then head to Ichibancho.
Colorful streamers that represent the threads of a loom are decorated with other smaller paper ornaments and then hung to bring good luck in a variety of areas of our life. They comprise kimono to ward off bad heath and accidents, cranes for good heath and a long life, paper strips to wish good handwriting, purse for good luck in business, nets for rich harvests, and trash bags for cleanliness.
In order to create a beautiful Tanabata bamboo pole with colorful decorations one has to be very dedicative and skillful. One has to be creative and crafty. They decorate Tanabata bamboo pole with a decorative balls and strips of paper with wishes written on them. It is so amazing the way they do it for us. There are about 3,000 decorated bamboo poles you could see. Each one is different in color and design. However, they absolutely look stunning.
Is there anything I could experience except Tanabata Decorations?
What do you think of it? There is nothing to be worried of as there are other exciting moments you could experience with a lot of joys. Ok, I assume you are satisfied with Tanabata decorations display. If you are a real holidaymaker then you would like to get back here over and over again. Why?! It is because Tanabata decorations are impressive and unique in some ways.
In addition, this festival lets you enjoy other activities that include watching live music & dance shows, stage performances, and having delicious local delicacies from the food carts and restaurants. For these live entertaining shows you should head to Shimin Hiroba Square, Kotodai Park and Juzenji Dori street area.
Don’t you think that the shopping arcades located downtown Sendai is a perfect place to do shopping? You are suggested to buy some unique souvenirs from the shops. You can buy kimono, traditional Japanese hand fans, dolls and etc. If you are interested in wearing kimono and then roam around Sendai downtown then DO IT! Please carry a hand fan with you.
Zunda and Gyutan – the two most unique foods in Sendai can be found at the restaurants located in Sendai Station. I personally like having Zunda-mochi. It is a kind of rice cake which is very delicious.
On August 5th, at night – a firework display (Sendai Tanabata Fireworks) is held along the bank of the Hirosegawa River. Don’t miss this event as firework display is a common thing in Japan during summer. Apart from all these things, you are suggested to visit the top sightseeing places in Sendai.
On the final day of the festival
Are you serious of knowing what actually happens on the final day of the festival? Hey…nothing serious happens though! As we all know that nothing is permanent in this world. If you agree with this statement then you face the time to say “Goodbye” to this decorative summer festival. The beautiful streamers are to rip down by the shop owners and left on the arcade floor. You could collect them and take home with you. Collect as many as pieces you could though don’t cross the limit. They would be like valuable treasures to you once you fly back to home from Japan. I wish you would be able to preserve them as many as days you want. Guys, best of luck!
How to get to Sendai
Sendai is the largest city in Tohoku region. It can be accessed by bullet train (shinkansen), highway bus, plane, and local train. If you get there from Tokyo then take a JR Tohoku Shinkansen to JR Sendai Station. Travel between Tokyo to Sendai requires about 100 minutes’ train ride. The cost is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and JR East Tohoku Pass.
Please don’t take the local trains as you require transferring about three to four trains and it is not convenient at all. Instead, I suggest you to take a direct bus from Tokyo to Sendai operated by Willer Express. In addition, one can fly to Sendai from the major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Nagoya and etc.
Welcome to Sendai Tanabata Festival 2016
I don’t find any reason not to be part of it in this year summer. You can spend a lovely evening watching the magical firework displays on the day before the Sendai Tanabata festival begins. Take a look at the festival’s schedule given below:
Sendai Tanabata Festival: August 6th to 8th, Time: 10:00 – 22:00 (August 6th to 7th), 10:00 – 21:00 (August 8th)
Tanabata Fireworks: August 5th, Time: 19:00 – 20:30, Admission: Free
More than two million visitors come to Sendai to see this famous summer matsuri. Are you going to be one of them? Come here and have some fun time with locals. I don’t know what you will wish for this Tanabata. Please write a wish on a tanzaku and then tie it to a bamboo tree. Hopefully, your wish would come true. I do hope you have enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for reading!
Copyright 2016 @ takkhis