Sendai Tanabata Festival 仙台七夕祭り

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri-SUM
Sendai Tanabata Matsuri-SUM

A grand celebration of celestial lovers that predates Romeo and Juliet

An ancient legend of star-crossed lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi that predates the tale of Romeo and Juliet is the backstory to Tanabata.

The biggest Tanabata festival is held in early August in Sendai. People walk down the shopping arcades filled with huge, vividly colored handmade streamers in their finest summer kimono.

Don't Miss

  • Stage performances, live music, and entertainment
  • The big streamers, which are several meters tall

How to Get There

The best ways to get to Sendai from Tokyo are via bullet train, air, or highway bus.

By train, take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Sendai Station from Tokyo, which arrives in an hour and 40 minutes.

Via highway bus, you'll find numerous buses throughout the day. These will take roughly six and a half hours depending on traffic.

Air is the fastest option to reach Sendai at just over one hour, but the most costly as well.

Starting off with summer fireworks

The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri runs from August 6 to 8, one month later than most of the rest of Japan. A fireworks display is held just behind Nishi Koen Park along the Hirose River on August 5.

A whole city decorated with colorful wishes

During the next few days, get lost in the near-infinite number of Tanabata decorations. All designs feature a large paper ball with sturdy streamers hanging low enough to touch and walk through.

Seemingly out-of-place symbolic items are incorporated into the designs. For example, a wastebasket represents cleanliness in the household, while a net is displayed in hopes of a plentiful catch at sea.

The romantic story behind the festivities

Tanabata is a centuries-old tradition in Japan, born from a story about the doomed romance between the weaving princess Orihime (Vega) and the cow-herding Hikoboshi (Altair). When the lovers focused more on their relationship than their responsibilities, Hikoboshi's cows escaped wreaking 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.

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