Tanabata is a summer festival celebrating the legendary meeting of two stars, Orihime, a weaver, and Hikoboshi, a cowherder. It is held on the seventh day of the seventh month which coincides with 7 July, although some regions of Japan continue to refer to the lunar calendar and celebrate it around 7 August. Separated by the Milky Way, Ama no gawa or ‘Heavenly River’ in Japanese, the stars are allowed to cross the distance by boat and meet only once a year on this day.
Tanabata evolved from an even older festival known as Kikkōden which was held at court and during which people would wish for personal improvement in a variety of artistic skills, by writing their wishes on broad mulberry leaves.
Today, Tanabata wishes are hung on branches of bamboo and written on strips of paper called tanzaku, which can be blue or green, red, yellow, white, and purple (which replaced black over the years).
With Japan House London’s downloadable worksheet, you can design your own Tanabata decorations to hang on a plant or tree and learn more about this festival tradition which combines elements of imported traditions from China and indigenous Japanese traditions.
We encourage all people who download the worksheet to share their finished cards on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #japanhouselondon and tagging us using @japanhouseldn.