What: The meeting of two stars, lovers who can only meet once a year.

When: July 7th


Tanabata, the Festival of the Weaver, comes from the legend of Vega and Altair, two lovers who can only meet once a year, on Tanabata. The legend says that Vega, the Weaver Star, gave up her weaving during her honeymoon with Altair, the Cowherd Star. As a punishment, she was banished to the Eastern part of the sky, while Altair was on the western. The pair can only cross the river between the two halves of the sky once a year.

Tanabata festivals are held in shopping districts and attract huge crowds each year. People write their hopes and concerns or poems about the two lovers on strips of long paper and decorate the house with them. The city of Sendai has the largest and most famous festival, with more than three thousand bamboo poles decorating the city.


Historically there were a lot of traditions that went along with Tanabata, though they are unsure when these first started. Seven foods were used as an offering, a seven-piece orchestra play, seven poems are composed, a ball is bounced seven-hundred times, seven rhymes are sung, and wine is drank seven times that day.

Like the Bon Festival, the month this holiday falls in varies by region, either July 7th or August 7th. In the city of Sendai, which holds the largest Tanabata celebration, it is held in August. Normally, Tanabata falls before the Bon Festival, which is why for many years it was celebrated as a time when markers were erected to call the spirits of ancestors.