What is Tanabata Matsuri or Tanabata?
Star Festival on July 7
Tanabata Matsuri (七夕祭り/ Star Festival) or just Tanabata (七夕) is a festival day on July 7, which is originated in a Chinese legend.
According to the legend, two star Altair and Vega are allowed to meet only once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, while they are usually separated from each other by the Milky Way.
In Japanese, the star Altair is called アルタイル (Arutairu) or 牽牛星 (Kengyu-sei) and the star Vega is called ベガ (Bega) or 織女星 (Shokujo-sei), but we affectionately call them 彦星様 (Hikoboshi-sama / Mr. Altair) and 織姫様 (Orihime-sama / Princess Vega) when we talk about 七夕.
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How to write “Star Festival” in Japanese?
Normal Japanese: 七夕（祭り）
Romaji: Tanabata (Matsuri)
When people just say “Tanabata” or “Tanabata no hi (the Tanabata day)”, it usually means the 7th of July.
Let’s go see a movie on the Tanabata day.
= Let’s go see a movie on 7th July.
What actually people do?
People write their wishies on a piece of paper, Tanzaku (短冊), and hang that Tanzaku on a bamboo leaf, Sasa no ha (笹の葉) of an erected bamboo tree, in hope that the wishes come true.
The bamboo tree is decorated with colorful paper crafts or Tanabata Kazari (七夕飾り/ Tanabata decoration).
In many places such as elementary schools, community centers, or sometimes their homes, children have chances to make those paper crafts and Tanzaku with Origami (折り紙 / folding paper) or other colorful papers and hang them on a bamboo tree.
Where to see the tree and decoration, and write a wish?
Every year, you will find Tanabata Matsuri everywhere in Japan, so you can visit one of them near your place and see decorated bamboo trees and colorful huge streamers (吹き流し / Fukinagashi). Some places have bamboo trees for you to write and hang your wish.
The festivals are usually held in July, but some areas hold their festivals in August which is closer than July to the seventh month of the year in the formerly used lunar calendar.