Festivals & Events
An ancient legend of star-crossed lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi that predates the tale of Romeo and Juliet is the backstory to Tanabata.
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, 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.
The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri 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 or business, abundant harvests 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. For example, a wastebasket represents cleanliness in the household, while a net is displayed in hopes of a plentiful catch at sea.
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.