Japanese Festivals: Tanabata Matsuri in Japan

by ebazaar 20 September 2009 One Comment

Japan is a country with a multitude range of festivals, celebrations, holidays and traditional ceremonial occasions, be it of their own origin or those derives form other cultures and later integrated into theirs. For your information, in Japan, festivals falls into two main categories; which are matsuri (simply means festivals) and nenchu gyoji (meaning annual events). Nenchu gyoji is also pronounced as ‘nenju gyoji’. Matsuri are usually festivals of native Japanese and Shinto origin. It is held annually on established dates sometimes decided by the shrine. Festivals which fall under this category are mainly of sacred nature. Meanwhile, nenchu gyoji is a larger category of annual and seasonal events and occasions, many of which are of Chinese and Buddhist origin. Sometimes, it happens when there are overlapping between the two categories in the Japanese yearly calendar.

Star festival in Japan

Star festival in Japan

This time, the Japanese festival or event that caught my attention is called as ‘Tanabata’, since my friends was writing about it and telling me how it goes about. Tanabata is commonly known as the ‘Star Festival’. It is certainly an old cultural event that has been claimed as one of the many important annual seasonal festivals. People will go on hanging on the leaves of a bamboo grass tree branches with fancy ornaments and paper strips in many different colors (usually red, green, white, black and yellow) with their wish written on it, in night of July seventh every year – a custom that has long been practiced by the Japanese people to pray for the stars, so they said. Tanabata is still celebrated on August 7th in some regions of Japan, while it is celebrated on July 7th in other regions. Some of the biggest Tanabata festival in Japan is the one held Sendai (August) and Hiratsuka (July).

Legend has it said…

TanabataThere were once lived a princess named Orihime, daughter of Tenkou, the King of Heaven. She was a very hardworking princess who would weaved many beautiful clothes for his father but since she was so hardworking, she hardly had any time for romance. Concern about his daughter, Tenkou arranged a meeting for her to meet Hikoboshi who lived and worked as a cowherd on the other side of the Amanogawa river. They fell in love at an instant but as time passed; both Orihime and Hikoboshi seemed to be forgetting about their work. This has provoked Tenkou’s anger and separated them apart and forbade them to meet. Orihime pleaded with tears to her father, somewhat moved at his daughter’s tears, Tenkou agreed to let them meet once a year and only on 7th day of the 7th month if Orihime worked hard and finished her weaving.

This story is similar to a Chinese folklore- the princess and the cowherd. So that is why Tanabata is considered as one of the Chinese influence brought into Japan. I remember reading it was around the Heian period that it was first adopted into the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Actually, Tanabata is not only held in Japan, there are similar festivals in Finland, Greece and China.

Read more on Tanabata.

Resources, pictures and side ongoing activities during tanabata information can be found on Tanabata Matsuri.

Tanabata often appears in anime, manga, in Japanese TV dramas, movies and even songs! There is one song titled ‘Tanabata matsuri‘ by a newly formed duo called themselves as ‘Tegomass‘. Watch the full music video of ‘Tanabata matsuri‘.

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One comment

  1. saifon



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