Here’s Where You Can Experience Traditional Tanabata Festivals in Japan
Around a million people visit them each year!
Each year, various Tanabata festivals are celebrated in different parts of Japan. This type of festival is said to have originated from the story of two deities -- Orihime and Hikoboshi -- who were separated by the Milky Way and could only meet once a year. The streets are typically adorned with ornate decorations, like bamboo with strips of wishes, and streamers.
In this article, we introduce 10 popular Tanabata festivals that will give you a taste of Japanese tradition!
Check them out below!
Sendai Tanabata Festival (Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture)
The Sendai Tanabata Festival is known as one of the biggest Tanabata festivals in Japan. This year, it will be held from August 6 to August 8. Although the Tanabata is usually celebrated on July 7 around the country, the Sendai Tanabata Festival holds it from August 6 to 8 based on the lunar calendar.
During the festival, many decorations are put up from the Sendai Station to Chuo Dori Street, and from Ichibancho Dori Street all the way to the arcade. There are also beautiful and traditional designs near the shopping arcades. Fun fact: About two million people visit this festival every year!
Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival (Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture)
Another one of the three biggest Tanabata festivals in Japan is the Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival, which is held in Hiratsuka City in Kanagawa Prefecture. It will be celebrated throughout the city from July 5 to July 7 this year, with the JR Hiratsuka Station North Exit Shopping Arcade as its center.
Around 500 Tanabata decorations will be set up at this center, as well as the Shonan Star Mall, to welcome the visitors. Something to look out for are the sports players and characters being incorporated into the designs. Aside from this, you can also enjoy the parades, stage events, and food stalls during the festival.
Anjo Tanabata Festival (Anjo City, Aichi Prefecture)
The Anjo Tanabata Festival is held around the JR Anjo Station every year. This festival is also one of the three biggest Tanabata festivals in the country. It will be celebrated from August 2 to August 4 this year.
More than a million people, including tourists and Anjo citizens, come to this event each year. The decorations, which bring color to the festival areas, are often made by the locals themselves. Being widely-known as the “Number One in Japan When It Comes to Wishes,” the place also holds various events related to wish-making.
Noshiro Tanabata Tenku no Fuyajo (Noshiro City, Akita Prefecture)
A long time ago, the city of Noshiro had a tradition where people would walk around the town holding lanterns that look like killer whales. It was even recorded that a lantern, about 17.6 meters long, was once pulled around the town until dawn during the Tempo period. However, when electricity became widely-used, the big lanterns were no longer seen in the area. Despite that, in 2013, the 17.6-meter-long lantern made a comeback. In the following year, a 24.1-meter-long lantern was built, which became the longest one in Japan.
This year, the festival will be held from August 3 to August 4. The two lanterns will be paraded at the National Highway 101 (Shiyakusho-mae to Tori-cho).
Sayama City Iruma River Tanabata Festival (Sayama City, Saitama Prefecture)
The Sayama City Iruma River Tanabata Festival is one of Sayama’s major summer events. It will be celebrated from August 3 to August 4, 2019. About 130 colorful Tanabata decorations will fill the 1.5-kilometer-long paths of Sayama City Station West Exit and Shimin Hiroba to Tanabata Dori Shopping Arcade.
On the first night of the festival, the Noryo Fireworks Festival will also be held, which will feature around 3,000 fireworks lighting up the night sky. You shouldn’t miss the 15-meter-high bamboo decoration at Sayama City Station West Exit too.
Mobara Tanabata Festival (Mobara City, Chiba Prefecture)
Each year, more than 800,000 people visit the Tanabata festival in Mobara City, Chiba. Colorful decorations, made by its citizens, adorn the shopping arcade around the JR Mobara Station. Aside from the decorations, something else to look forward to is the Mobara Awa Odori, where 11 teams with a total of 900 people, will perform a dance. Another is the YOSAKOI Naruko Odori, which has 13 teams and about 400 performers. The festival will be having its 65th celebration from July 26 to July 28 this year.
Asagaya Tanabata Festival (Suginami District, Tokyo)
The Asagaya Tanabata Festival is a Tanabata festival conducted by eight shopping mall associations around the JR Asagaya Station. It will be held from August 3 to August 7, 2019.
The entire 700-meter-long arcade is usually filled with huge and various decorations inspired by the owners’ ideas themselves. There are also colorful streamers and lanterns that add to the festive mood. You can visit the food stalls at the festival too, which offer takoyaki, shaved ice, and many other dishes.
Kyo no Tanabata (Kyoto)
The Kyo no Tanabata is a light-up event held at Kyoto during August, in accordance with the old Tanabata calendar. More than 700,000 people came to this festival last year. This year marks the event’s 10th year.
The festival’s event dates will differ by area. In Horikawa, one of the main areas in Kyoto, the Negai (Wish) Tanabata will be held from August 1 to August 15, 2019. Bamboo grasses with strips of wishes will be lined up on the Horikawa paths and will be lit up at night. In addition to this, furinto (bells inside bamboo boxes) will be lit up by LEDs at the Kamogawa River on August 3 and 4.
Yamaguchi Tanabata Lantern Festival (Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture)
The Yamaguchi Tanabata Lantern Festival is a fire festival with a history that dates back to almost 600 years. During the event, ten thousand red lanterns are displayed around the Yamaguchi City shopping arcade and Eki Dori Street. You can also experience watching the mikoshi carriages and Chochin Yamagasa walking down the streets. The festival will be held from August 6 to August 7, 2019.
Oita Tanabata Festival (Oita City, Oita Prefecture)
According to the old Tanabata calendar, the Oita Tanabata Festival is usually held on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the first week of August. This year, it will be held from August 2 to August 4.
The festival’s main event -- Funai Pacchin -- will be at the “480,000-people Square”, located on the Chuo Dori Street in front of Oita Station. Festival carriages, that look like warriors and dragons, will be lit up and paraded through the streets. Other events, like the Oita Citizen Dance Festival will also take place in the area. Don’t forget to check out the beautiful Tanabata decorations at the shopping arcade center too!
Provided by Japan Walker™, Walkerplus™, and Tokyo Walker™ (18 June 2019)