The first annual observance of summer is known as
Tanabata, falling on July 7. It is a day that commemorates a romantic story,
first handed down to Japan's imperial court via China and Korea and then
becoming popular among the common people, about the once-a-year meeting on a
bridge across the Milky Way of the "cowherd star" and the "weaving princess
star." It was believed that wishes made on this day would be fulfilled; in
gardens and other places people set up leaf-bearing bamboo stalks to whose
branches they attached strips of paper on which their wishes were written.
In Nagano they celebrate Tanabata on August 6th, which is one month and one day
after Tanabata. They make big Tanabata paper dolls and put their children's
kimono on them. They hang it on their houses and pray for their children's
health and long life.
In Kyoto they celebrate Tanabata in the Shiramine temple. The girls make
Nishijin-ori (one of the Japanese traditional ways of making kimono cloth) wear
Nishijin-ori clothes and dance around the village. Young girls hope that their
handicraft will be as beautiful as the Weaver Princess Star. Here are some
photographs of some other Tanabata costumes.
In the middle part of the Edo period, the Kengo monk said "On Tanabata, the
Spirit leaves heaven and will go home. The Jizo* will go to heaven and greet the
spirit. So bring your home spirits and pray!" So that is what they do in
*Jizo: A little stone statue of a child.
Many people from the city dance and play music in a Tanabata parade in Miyagi.
There are also flower cars and there are people twirling sticks. Their parade is
Today, Tanabata festivals are celebrated at numerous places around Japan. Some
of the best-known take place at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto, the Konpira
Shrine in Kagawa Prefecture, and in the cities of Hiratsuka in Kanagawa
Prefecture and Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture. Also well known is the Sendai
Tanabata festival in Miyagi Prefecture, which takes place a month later on
August 7, closer to the time of year when Tanabata was earlier observed by the