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Festivals of Japan: Sendai Tanabata Matsuri

The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri is the largest and most famous tanabata celebration in Japan.

By 2 min read

The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri is the largest and most famous tanabata celebration in Japan. The festival is one of Japan’s most famous and is one of the ‘Three Great Festivals of the Tohoku region’ of Japan, called Tohoku Sandai Matsuri in Japanese.

The festival is held in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture which is located in the Tohoku region of Japan. Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku region and is famous for Date Masamune, one of Japan’s most powerful samurai feudal lords, who was known as the “One-Eyed Dragon of the North”.

The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri is a traditional event that has been passed down through the generations. It first started soon after the city was founded by Date Masamune in the early Edo period, and has grown to become the largest and most famous tanabata celebration in Japan. The festival is held every year from August 6 to 8.

The festival celebrates Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, which celebrates the meeting of the star-crossed lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi, who according to legend can only meet once a year during tanabata. In Miyagi Prefecture, tanabata is celebrated in August in accordance with the lunar calendar unlike most of Japan, which celebrates on July 7.

Festival Highlights

The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri features colourful streamers and paper decorations to bring good luck in a variety of areas. These include kimono to ward off bad health and accidents, cranes for long life, health and safety and paper strips called tanzaku for writing wishes to hang from bamboo wishing trees.

The highlight of the festival is the thousands of colourful tanabata streamers that decorate downtown Sendai and the neighbouring shopping arcades. The 3 – 5 meter long streamers are handcrafted by local shops, schools and community groups out of traditional Japanese washi paper and bamboo. They are truly stunning and resemble a brightly coloured forest when hung from the bamboo poles along the shopping arcades.

Most of the festivities take place in downtown Sendai with live music, dance and stage performances at Shimin Hiroba Square, Kotodai Park and along Juzenji Dori Street. There is also a fireworks display held on the eve of the festival on August 5th on the banks of the Hirosegawa River.

The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri is one of Japan’s most elegant festivals and a beautiful summer tradition. Come along to enjoy the gorgeous decorations of washi paper and bamboo of tababata in Sendai.

Festival Information:

Location: Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture
When: August 6 – 8
Time: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm (August 6 and 7) 10:00 am to 9:00 pm (August 8)
Cost: FREE
You can find the tanabata decorations along the Ichibancho and Chuo Shopping Arcades located near JR Sendai Station. From Tokyo take a JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Sendai Station.

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