Tanabata Festival 2

So, let’s continue with the story of the Tanabata Festival.

On the day of the Tanabata Festival, Japanese people, especially children, write wishes on long, narrow strips of colored paper and hang them along with other paper decorations, on bamboo branches located in the entrance of their home or in their backyard. After adorning the tree with colored paper, Japanese people then pray that their wishes will come true.

However, where did this custom originate from?

Originally this came from the annual Chinese event called, the Festival to Plead for Skills.
There is a popular custom to pray on the 7th July for the seamstress named after the Vega Star, along with wishing for improved weaving skills. Many would often adorn altars in their garden with sewing needles and offer their prayers to the Star of the Seamstress. Before long, prayers weren’t just limited to weaving skills, but an assortment of wishes in a variety of practices including traditional performing arts and calligraphy. It is said that the tradition of writing short Tanka poems came about in the Edo Period (1603-1868) when a student at a small private school wrote a wish of becoming a better writer on a strip of paper.

The reason why the reading for the Chinese character, “七夕,” is read as “Tanabata” lies within the Japanese Archaic legend of “Tanabatatsume.” This is the story of a woman who entered a small mill located upon a riverbank and began to weave garments with a loom. The seamstress then offered these beautiful vestments to the gods. The two seamstress stories from China and Japan soon became integrated as one, written with the characters, “七夕,” read as, “Tanabata.”

Finally, the last part of our Tanabata story is about the date in which the Tanabata Festival is held. Depending on the area of Japan you are in, sometimes the Tanabata is regarded as a Pre-Obon Festival purification ritual and held a month later, on August 7. Also there is another reason that this day is closer to the original Tanabata day, seventh day of the seventh month according to the traditional lunar calendar. Such communities frequently perform the services for Bon, a period in mid-August when the spirits of deceased relatives are thought to return, together with the ceremonies for Tanabata.

So, how did you enjoy our story about the Tanabata? As Tanabata approaches, decorated bamboo branches can be seen all around the neighborhood, signaling that summer has finally arrived and that summer vacation is just around the corner.