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Tanabata – the Japanese ‘star festival’
Tanabata, which is also known as the “star festival”, takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month of the year. According to a Chinese legend, the two stars of Altair and Vega, which are usually separated from each other by the milky way, are able to meet.
The festival has taken on a special meaning for couples that are apart for example, Salarymen and their wives. In Japan it is quite common for families to be separated due to work as in April thousands of workers are dispatched to new parts of the country and internationally in the annual personnel shuffle.
One popular Tanabata custom is to write one’s wishes on a piece of paper, and hang it on a specially erected bamboo tree, in the hope that the wishes become true. These trees can be found at temples and shrines but also in schools and public spaces around the country. It really has become and event for everyone.
Here is Utagawa Hiroshige, who was a very famous Japanese ukiyo-e artist’s Tanabata art from 1852…
Colorful Tanabata festivals are held across Japan in early July with some of the biggest and most famous being the Tanabata Festivals of Sendai and Hiratsuka near Tokyo in July.