Festivals & Events
An ancient legend of star-crossed lovers—the stars Altair and Vega—that predates the tale of Romeo and Juliet is the backstory to Tanabata, the Star Festival.
In Sendai, where the biggest Tanabata festival is held in early August, people celebrate by donning their finest summer kimono and strutting down the shopping arcades filled with huge, vividly colored handmade streamers.
The best ways to get to Sendai from Tokyo are via bullet train, air and highway bus.
Take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Sendai Station from Tokyo, which arrives in an hour and 40 minutes. There are highway buses running between Tokyo and Sendai both day and night. The are domestic flights from 10 cities within Japan and also from destinations in Asia.
The Tanabata festival in Sendai runs from August 6 to 8, one month later than most of the rest of Japan. Start the festivities early by arriving the evening of August 5 to view a fireworks display held just behind Nishi Koen Park along the Hirose River.
Revelers carry smaller paper decorations such as kimono, nets and cranes to ask for good health, rich harvests and good business and more
While Altair and Vega cross paths only on July 7, Tanabata festivals take place in either July or August
During the next few days, get lost in the near- infinite number of Tanabata decorations. All designs feature a large paper ball with light but sturdy streamers hanging low enough to touch and walk through. The color, style and theme are left to the businesses and community groups that produce them.
Seemingly out-of-place symbolic items are incorporated into the designs. A wastebasket represents cleanliness in the household, for example, while a net is displayed in hopes of a good catch at sea.
Tanabata is a centuries-old tradition in Japan, born from a story about the doomed romance between the weaving princess star Orihime (Vega) and the cowherding star Hikoboshi (Altair). When the lovers focused more on their relationship than their responsibilities, Hikoboshi’s cows escaped to wreak havoc among the heavens.
The princess’s strict father now only allows the couple to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month once a year, if they work hard. That day is Tanabata.