Written by Nupur Jena
Celebrating Tanabata, The Star Festival, In Yokohama
Tanabata, the Star Festival, is celebrated each year on July 7th. In Yokohama, the festivities are especially lively and full of charm. Let's check out the feautures of this celebration in Yokohama.
On July 7th, we celebrate Tanabata, the Star Festival. It is a festivity with a tradition that goes back to time immemorial.
On this day, the people write their wishes on strips of paper called tanzaku and hang them on leafy bamboo stalks along colorful decorations.
Each region boasts its own unique Tanabata customs and the festivities vary from region to region. Taking part in various types of Tanabata could be very pleasant experience! On July 7th every year, Japan lights up with the Tanabata celebrations and you'll be able to feel the festive spirit everywhere.
The Story of Tanabata
The decorations for Tanabata include tanzaku (the wish papers) and origami objects that enrich the dispay. Among the wide variety of Tanabata decorations, the colorful streamers stand out the most. The bright streamers represent the woven threads, an element that relates to the Tanabata story.
The festival originates from an ancient Chinese tale. Long ago, there was a beautiful weaver princess named Orihime who lived high up in the skies. She was the proud daughter of the God of Heaven. Every day, she would diligently weave clothes for her father. Her father began to worry one day that she was working too hard, so he decided to introduce her to a young cow herder named Hikoboshi.
Love-sick, the two forgot all about their duties. The herder's cows became ill and the weaver's cloth remained unwoven. Angry, the Heaven God decided to separate the two by creating the River in Heaven (the Milky Way) and placing them each on opposite shores. The two were no longer allowed to see one another.
Devastated by this, Orihime kept weeping. Seeing this made the Heaven God finally change his mind. The two were given permission to see each other once again, on one condition. They could only meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month. However, if it rained, the river would flood and the two would not be able to see each other.
Therefore, the two would always pray for good weather and if they met successfully, then everyone who made a wish on that day would have their wishes come true.
This is the legend that evryone remembers on July 7th, during the Tanabata celebrations. Usually, people wish for health, love in relationships, peace and prosperity. The cast net decoration that can be seen along the tanzaku, symbolizes luck in fishing, which translates into a wish for prosperity.
Tanabata Celebrations in Yokohama
Yokohama boasts some of the most original and liveliest Tanabata celebrations in Japan. Let's check out some of them.
In the main area of Yokohama, Yokohama Porta and the area around Sogo mall, you can see elaborate bamboo decorations based on popular themes and characters from the year covering an area that is hundreds of meters long. It is because of these magnificent displays that this festival is considered to have the most beautiful Tanabata decorations in Japan.
The Tanabata Festival Parade
During the festival, one can enjoy watching lively parades such as the Tanabata Odori Parade and the symbolic Orihime Princess Parade where local people and business promoters dress in colorful outfits and proceed through the festival area. You just have to see the elaborate dances that match so well with the fantastically colored decorations.
The Starry Tanabata Night
At night, one can enjoy fabulous sights that can't be seen during the day, namely the colorful decorations illuminated by shining lights. The miraculous sparkling Tanabata decorations are without a doubt a sight that shouldn't be missed out.
One of the biggest attractions of the festival consists in its food stalls. Over one hundred stalls can be found on the festival grounds offering a vast variety of festival foods and drinks. Here, you can taste delicious specialty dishes from all over Japan.
Yokohama is one of the best areas to enjoy Tanabata, the Star Festival. If you happen to visit Yokohama on July 7th, do take a look at the parade and enjoy the festive night in its full glamour. The decorations and the atmosphere of this festival, which symbolize the people's wishes and hopes, are something that will fill your heart with warm feelings.