Make A Wish For Tanabata

July 4, 2011 Juju Kurihara Culture, Entertainment, Japan, Literature, Music, Vocabulary Tags: 0 Comments

The 7th of July is Tanabata (七夕/ the star festival) in Japan. Starting with mikoshi, Japan is preparing for the summer. We are counting down.

Tanabata is a Chinese origen mythology and is the only day two young people, Hikoboshi (彦星/ Altair) and Orihime (織姫/ Vega) can cross the Amano-gawa (天の川/ the Milky Way) and see each other.

tanabataAccording to the mythology, Orihime is a daughter of the Emperor and she weaved such a beautiful materials. One day, the Emperor found her a good young man, Hikoboshi who lived the other side of the Amano-gawa then these young two got married. Since they got married, Orihime was too happy to be around Hikoboshi and stopped weaving. The emperor was angry and brought Orihime back to the other side of the rive.

Now they are separate and sad. The emperor felt sorry for his daughter and promised that if Orihime works really hard, once a year, the 7th of July, he allows her to cross the Amano-gawa to see her husband. So during the year, these two young couple worked so hard, counting the days until they can see each other.

However if it rains on the day of Tanabata, Orihime cannot cross the river and they have to wait for another year…


tanabata edoIn Japan, we decorate bamboo leaves. This custom started in the Edo period and is original event in Japan.

One of the most famous Tanabata festival is in Sendai. After the quake, I was actually worried that they wouldn´t be able to do it but NO. This year, they will put all big summer events in Touhoku together and hold a massive summer festival in Sendai to cheer people up. I think it´s a really good idea.


So now, how do we decorate bamboo?

We make decoration with colourful paper, loops, some patterns then the most important thing about Tanabata is you write your wishes and hang them from the branch.

They are bamboo, not those chunky ones but thin ones and those are called “sasa (笹)”. Then you think carefully of your wishes.

Here are the example, let´s see what they wish for.


“I want to live in 12m² room”

Where do you live?

wish 1

“I want to be Pikachu when I grow up”

Then you don´t need to learn how to speak.

wish 2

“Please make me thinner”

That´s not up to “him”.

wish 3

“Teacher, please don´t tell me off”

Oh… poor thing

wish 4

Now you know how important to make wishes for Tanabata.



During this time, many local high streets are decorated with bamboo and it´s quite lively.

I remember when I was in the nursery, my mum took me to a walk to the park in the evening. I was put in yukata (浴衣/ summer kimono) and I smelt like baby powder as I always had a heat rash. We took our bamboo branch.

We went inside the park and there were already some people on the litle bridge there. My mum told me to throw the bamboo. I asked her “but to where? In the river?”

I was a little confused because the water in the river was very low and didn´t seem to carry the bamboo to anywhere. But as my mum insisted, I finally threw it over the bridge.


I wanted to know if this was normal or even people still do it anywhere in Japan. As I´ve found was, it was a tradition to throw the bamboo into the sea but now because of the environment matter, it´s prohibited.

Well, it´s logical. Imagine entire Japanese citizen throw the bamboo trees away into the local river and the sea. So now, in some regions they pile the bamboo up and burn them, instead. It´s OK, sounds like a bonfire.


This is the song for Tanabata. The title is “Sasa no ha, sara sara (笹の葉さらさら)”. Oh, here there is another onomatopoeia we need to look up soon.











Sasa no ha sara sara

Nokibani yureru

Ohoshi sama kira kira

Kin gin sunago


Goshiki no tanzaku

Watashi ga kaita

Ohoshi sama kira kira

Sora kara miteru

Bamboo leaves moves and make sound, sara sara

They are moving with the wind under the eaves

The stars are twinkling, kira kira

Just like golden and silver powder in the sky


The colourful tanzaku

That I wrote

The starts are twinkling

They are watching us from the sky


Tomorrow is the Tanabata. Don´t foreget to make wishes.


More festivals

Seijin no Hi

Happy Easter

The summer festival in Japan


Momono Sekku

3rd of February


More Japanese customs

Chushu no meigetsu

Seijin no hi


Shunbun no hi


Contemplate the moon

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