Culture of Japan
New Year (Shohgatsu)
Doll's Festival (Girl's Day)
Children's Day
(Tango no sekku)
Star Festival (Tanabata)
Moon Viewing (Tsukimi)
Japanese Christmas
(St. Valentine's Day)
Name of Month
Japanese letters
Write your name in Japanese
Write your name in Kanji
Write your name in Japanese
Find kanji for your name.
Japanese Alphabet
(Iroha Uta)
Japanese Numbers
How many I's do you have?
How many You's are you?
How do you call your wife?

How do you call
How do you call
brother and sister?
How Japanese laugh?
Why Japan is Japan?
How Japan became Japan?
Star Festival (Tanabata) 7th of July

Typical tanabata decoration*1
Long long ago, the God in the heaven had a daughter named Orihime (means Weaver, the star Vega). She was everyday weaving cloths for the God using weaver called as tanahata. The God was anxious about too hard working daughter and one day he introduced a youngster named Kengyuh (means Cowherd, the star Altair) who also works hard taking care of cows. And they fell in love at the first glance and they now forgot their work letting the cloths of God wasted and cows in ill.
The God was angry about it and let them live apart separated by Ama no kawa (River in the Heaven, the Milky Way*0). Then Orihime was weeping all day long. The God pitied her and allowed them to meet once in a year at the night of 7th of July (July is the seventh month. Seven was lucky number from that time).

If it rains on this occasion, the River of Heaven is flooded and prevent them to meet. Therefore, on 6th of July, people pray for them not to rain on this day, dedicating Tanzaku (a strip of poetry paper) to the star in various colors writing their wishes (including people's own wishes) hanging them on leafy bamboo.

Typical tanabata decoration*2
These are attractive enough to be called summer Christmas trees. This is the "Star Festival". This story is a chinese legend. Originally, this festival was held among the Court nobility. It is since Edo era (1603-1867) that this festival become established among the people at large.
at Sendai shopping street*3
In recent years, cities like Sendai attract sightseers by decorating their shopping street arcades with these tanabata decorations on a large scale.

tanzaku tells "Wish family's health"*4

decorated square in Isezaki*5
*0In the Greek Mithology, Zeus, as is usual, loved a mortal queen Alcmene and transformed himself into the shape of her husband and succceeded to make her bear Heracules. Zeus laid the baby Heracules side by side to his sleeping wife Hera intending to make the baby immortal. Heracules sucked the milk so strongly to awake the Goddess, and she shove away the baby. Her milk scattered in the sky forming the Milky Way. Some of the mild falled on the earth and is said to have formed the flower of lily.
: imported from http://www.kakaa.or.jp/uridasi/tanabata/tanabata.htm
: imported from http://www.intercraft.co.jp/tanabata-1996/wish/tanzaku.htm. Now the link is broken.
: imported from http://www.geisya.or.jp/~demachi1/info/gazou.html. Now the link is broken. (04/Feb/17)
: imported from http://www.intercraft.co.jp/tanabata-1996/wish/tanzaku_photo.html
. Now the link was lost (04/Feb/17).
At these URL, you will find more pictures.
Here is another interesting site about Tanabata showing different ways of celebration at different places.

  07/May/18 I found a nice site explaing the background story of the Tanabata at http://takasan.vow.ne.jp/douwa/tanabata/tanabata01.html with lovely pictures. Unfortunately, the story is written in japanese. Here I prepared the translation of the tales in the fourteen pictures. The story is a little different from my explantion above. In order to keep very japanese expressions as they were, I tryed translate direct translation, keeping the words order as they were as far as possible.   Today, Orihime is weaving clothes. She wove them yesterday too and will also weave tomorrow.
  She did not feel it a hard work.
  It was a work for her the daughter of the Sky Emperor.
1Orihima(weaver maiden or princess) and Hikoboshi (another name of cow herd: male star)
  by Takahiro YAMADA (text and pictures)
2  Long long ago, in the great sky, when Tentei: the Sky Emperor was governing the sky, it happened.
  Tentei had a daughter named Orihime.
  She was very beautiful and liked by all the people.
  The clothes she wove were very light and let all the people in happy feeling.
4  Such was she. But recently there was a thing that she care about.
  It was a tone of a flute from the hill in the westward.
  The quiet and transparent tone of the flute was played by Hikoboshi the Cowherd.  The cows were living quite at ease in the tone of flute.
5  One day, her heart was so hot that she could not stop the desire to meet the person who tuned the flute.
  Thus, she stopped working at the loom and she went appearing in front of Hikoboshi.
  "What a beautiful tone of flute you tune!"
  Hikoboshi got a little blushed at the words of Orihime. And said "Thank you, I was playing this flute for you".
  "What!! really for me ?"
6  Orihime and Hikoboshi fall in love.
  From that day, Orihime felt reluctant to weave clothes.
  Hikoboshi also could not make cows at ease.
7  Today too, Hikoboshi is playing flute for Orihime and She sing close besides him.
  Thus, the cows who were well herded before, are now got loosely scattered.
8  Seeing the two who forgot their work, Tentei got angry.
  What a matter!! you two have forgot your work. Do you know what a many people and animals are laid in sad and sighing.
  Tentei decided to separate the two.
9  When Tentei hoisted his hands high and blew down, then the earth began to brake sounding "Goh Goh".
  Now Hikoboshi is in the opposite side of the broken earth from Orihime.
  In a short time she looked at, the distance between them got broad. And their calling voices were dissipated by the risingly flowing water.
10  When they were aware with what had happened, the land where Hikoboshi stand was far beyond and her eyes saw a big river which made her die away.
  "Dad!! I was wrong. From now on, I will not forget weaving. Please let me meet Hikoboshi!!"
  From the Dad: the Sky Emperor no voice was returned.
11  From the eyes of Orihime, hot tear drops flew out. Her sob spread in the full sky making stars lose their brightness.
  Hearing her, A magpie bird (kasasagi) came down to her. "Daughter Orihime!! Do not sigh so much. We altogether will build a bridge that reach to the side of the land where Hikoboshi live. However, It is only one day a year when we can get together. This was Seventh of the Seventh month: July.
12  Magpies called their comrade and wrapped over their wings forming a bridge. It was a bridge of magpies.
  Seeing the kind mind of the magpies, Tentei decided that he pretend not to know this fact.
13  Once a year, on Seventh of July, a bridge is built on the river of sky.
  On the wings of kind hearted magpies, Orihime and Hikoboshi are said to live a lovely happy day.
  However, if it rains on that day, even magpies can not build the bridge.
14  Therfore, Pray all the people! on the day of Seventh the Seventh month: the Tanabata, not to rain!!
  The end of the story of Orihime and Hikoboshi