What’s your wish? The Japanese star festival “Tanabata”

Beautiful Milkey Way Hello! I’m Mishi! Today, what I want to talk about is July in japan. Early July is not a summer vacation time yet, Japanese summer break usually starts later in July and then start to go back to their school from the 1st of September. Japanese summer break is shorter than American summer break.

But July makes you feel that summer time is coming close day by day in Japan! From June to the middle of July, this season is usually a rainy season! It is so humid and hot! It would make Japanese grouchy. lol But that means as soon as the rainy season gets over, summer time will be there! There is a big festival that you might be interested in all over Japan!

Let’s take a look at what kind of event they have in July! ~((((((っ´Ι`)ノ




What’s The Star Festival in Japan(Tanabata/七夕)?


The Milky Way(the Star Festival)

The Milky Way at Tanabata festival

7th of July, today is the time to make a wish. “Tanabata(七夕)” means Evening of the seventh in English and Tanabata is also known as the Star Festival. They prepare small bamboo trees which are called “Sasatake(笹竹)” and write their wishes on the paper which is called “Tanzaku(短冊)”. This is how Japanese generally do on this day but if you go to the local areas, you might see different ways to make a wish. For example, throwing the bamboo trees into the ocean, eating Somen(thin wheat noodles), or something else. There are many ways to celebrate Tanabata festival and it’s so interesting.


The origin of Tanabata festival


The Star Festival in Japan

1: Another Tanabata(棚機)

It was an event which is called “Misogi(禊)” a long time ago in japan. This event was a purification ceremony. It’s said that a maiden who have a pureness wove the Kimono from a sacred cloth with this weaver machine called, Tanabata for the god of water to pray for the large harvest or getting rid of the people’s uncleanness. To do so, the maiden stayed at a house which was only used for this ceremony. A maiden for this ceremony was called “Tanabatatsume(棚機津女)”. This is how it’s called Tanabata.

After a while, this event connected to the preparation of O-bon(it is a traditional Japanese custom to pray for their ancestors) and they celebrate this event on the night of July, 7th.


2: Kiko Den(乞巧奠)

This story came from China. This story was shared by the story of Orihime and Hikoboshi(below). This custom was started for getting good at sewing or weaving but as the time went by, they started to wish for everything.


3: Orihime and Hikoboshi(おりひめとひこぼし)

Orihime and Hikoboshi(the Star Festival)This is the Chinese story. The celebration for meeting Orihime and Hikoboshi which are the stars Vega and Altair. Orihime who is the weaver lives on the west side of the Milky Way and Hikoboshi who is a cow herder lives on the east side of the Milky Way. Orihime’s father recommended her to marry Hikoboshi and they got married. They got along with each other and became a good couple but they stopped working. Because they loved each other so so much and probably didn’t want to be separated even a second.

When her father looked at this situation, he got mad at them and he spat them into east and west side of the Milky Way. This affected them the wrong way! Now, they got so sad and couldn’t work anymore. Her father compromised some and told them that they can meet each other once a year. This day is July, 7th.

The traditional Japanese custom and the Chinese stories blended in together and Japanese have called this day Tanabata. It’s deep story, right?


Why does Japanese write their wishes on Tanzaku?


Sasatake and TanzakuThe reason why they write their wishes on the paper came from the old time. The noble people used to write their wishes which were for getting better at their skill of writing, art craft, poem, and music instrument on the leaf of the paper mulberry. This time was during the Edo period. At this time, it has spread nationwide. Around this period, there were many “Terakoya(寺子屋)” which is a private elementary school or temple school in Japan. They used to teach kids calligraphy or lessons for something so to wish to get better at the skill of what they are learning, it became an event to write on the paper.


The five colors of Tanzaku


Five colors(Gogyo Setsu)

Gogyo Setsu

Those colors are the Theory of Yin-Yang and the Five Element. In Japan, it’s called”Gogyo Setsu(五行説)”. Sometimes, you will see these colors for the traditional events. Each one of them has the meanings so let’s understand them. But before the meaning of colors, I have to show you this at first.

The old way is

  • Blue
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • White
  • Black

But after a while, two colors were changed.

  • Green
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • White
  • Purple

Actually, the color green used to be called the color blue and the reason why the color black was changed to the color purple is two ways. It’s said that the color black doesn’t suit for the celebration. Top of that, the color purple was for noble people to wear a long time ago. This is how the colors were changed.

Finally, let’s talk about the meanings. Those colors are the symbol of nature.

  • Blue or green – the green of trees
  • Red – the blaze
  • Yellow – the earth
  • White – the metal under the ground
  • Black or purple – the life

These five colors stand for the starts too. Let’s see which stars those colors stand for.

  • Blue or green – Alpha(the Lyre) or Vega
  • Red – Antares(the Scorpion)
  • Yellow – Alpha(the Eagle) or Altair
  • White – The color of the Milky Way
  • Black or purple – The color of the night sky

If you look up to the east side of the sky at around 9 pm(around July, 7th), you will find 2 or 3 stars that are shining strong than the other stars. Those are Vega and Altair. Between them, you will be able to see the Milky Way.

Those colors also mean

  • Blue or green – to get a virtue or improve yourself
  • Red – to show your appreciation to your ancestors or your parents
  • Yellow – to cherish your friends or a trust
  • White – to keep to the regulations and obligations
  • Black or purple – to improve your education

So, it’s good for you to write your wish on the exact color of the paper.




Why do they use a bamboo tree to hang?


Bamboo is sacred in JapanWhat they do in this day is hanging the paper in Sasatake(the small bamboo tree). As high as you hold Sasatake, it is said that your wish will be granted better. Sasatake is called the place where heavenly gods on a paper. Sasatake grows straight to the sky and when the wind blows, the bamboo leafs make a sound. This sound is said to call ancestors. That’s the reason why the bamboo leaf is called a sacred thing. In this case, it’s used for sending the people’s wishes to the heaven or ancestors. To hang the paper in Sasatake is a Japanese original custom. You will write whatever you want to write to make your wish come true nowadays. It used to be wishing for a skill of arts and crafts. It is just because Orihime used to be a weaver as you have read above! (‘-^*)


The different kinds of decoration to hang in Sasatake


If you take a look at Sasatake closely, you would notice that there are a bunch of different decorations. Let me show you some of them!


Crane Origami(Senbazuru/千羽鶴 or Orizuru/折り鶴)


Crane Origami(Tanabata)This is to wish for a long life.

SenbazuruThis is Senbazuru. Senbazuru means a thousand paper cranes. Senbazuru is folded by many people for somebody. This means that many people concern about his or her life and usually, it’s folded when somebody is sick. So, it means to cure his or her disease. You’ll sometimes see that sports players have it. This means that many people wish for his, her, or that team will win.




Fukinagashi(Tanabata festival)This is to wish for improving a skill of weaving like Orihime.




Kinchaku(Tanabata festival)They make Kinchaku with a paper(the picture is a real one). This is to wish for saving money.




kamigoromo(Tanabata festival)It’s made of a paper. This is to wish for living life without lacking clothes. This means to live life well.



Toami is a fish net for fishers. They make it with Origami usually. This is to wish for a large catch. It also means to live our life without being lacking foods. This means to live life well.



Kuzukago is a trash can but they don’t hang a real trash can. They make it with Origami usually. This is to wish for being good at keeping things tidy and in order and not wasting things.

There are more decorations and every local place has their own things to hang. Enjoy Tanabata festival!


Somen(そうめん) at Tanabata festival


SomenThis is a food to eat at the Star Festival in Japan. The reason why they eat is two opinions. One is the story of “Kikoden(the explanation is above)”. When they weave the Kimono, they used a white thread so Somen looks like a white thread and they have started to eat it. Another reason is from China too. It’s said that on July 7th, one of the Chinese emperors lost his son. After a while, the kid became a demon with one leg and caused an epidemic. The kid used to like “Sakubei(索餅)” while he was alive so they started to offer Sakubei to pray for him.

SakubeiSakubei is made of rice flour, wheat flour, salt, and water. They dry and make it as a preserved food. When they eat it, they boil it and dip it in soy sauce or vinegar. As you see the picture, it looks like a doughnut. This food was also called “Muginawa(麦縄)”. “Nawa(縄)” means a rope in English and doesn’t it look like a rope? As the time passed, this food turned into Somen. That’s why they have the custom to eat Somen. But this custom is not all over Japan. Somen is eaten on July 7th by only the certain places. So, to eat Somen is not Japanese common thing on July 7th!


Another holiday in July “Marine Day(Umi no Hi/海の日)”


Beach in JapanThe 3rd Monday of July, this day is Japanese public holiday. It is the day to be thankful for the ocean.

Actually, a month of July is an ocean month in Japan so there are many events will be held nationwide. Maybe, you will have a chance to participate in a watermelon bust! ヽ(`Д´)/




If you go to Japan around this season, you will get to see everywhere have Sasatake and hang papers all over Japan. Sometimes, you can participate in this event and write your wishes for free. Try it out if you can make your wish come true! ヾ(´^ω^)ノ♪

Thank you for reading this post! I hope you will have a good summer break!

See you~! ( ´∀`)/~~




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