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Discover Tanabata: the Japanese Star Festival

Tanabata, also known as Star Festival, is a Japanese festival meaning “Evening of the seventh.”

Tanabata is originally based on a Chinese legend. It celebrates the meeting of two stars which the Milky Way usually separates and, according to legend, only allowed to meet once a year: on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Find out why in this video story.

When is Tanabata?

It is celebrated between July 7th and the end of August (depending on where you are in Japan).

How is Tanabata Celebrated? 

People celebrate by writing their wishes on small pieces of paper (called tanzaku) and hanging them on bamboo branches, hoping they will come true.


Other decorations including origami designs and colorful streamers may also be part of the display.

Popular foods include takoyaki (round dough balls), okonomiyaki (savory pancake), yakisoba (fried noodles with pork and cabbage), and yakitori (grilled chicken).

Tanabata Discussion Questions

  • Does this festival remind you of any other holidays?
  • Do you think the story of Orihime and Hikoboshi was happy or sad? Why?

Tanabata Activities

  • Visit our Japan profile page for a detailed map, informational video, photo gallery, infographic, activities, and more.
  • Make tanzakus. Cut rectangles from colorful construction paper, and punch a hole in the top. Write personal wishes and use string or ribbon to hang the tanzakus.
  • Star Festival Origami from Origami Club. Directions for making stars, streamers, ornaments, and more. The Orihime and Hikoboshi origami dolls are adorable!
  • Find teaching ideas, crafts, songs, videos, and worksheets from Japanese Teaching Ideas.
  • Listen to Tanabata-sama: A Japanese Folk Song

Explore Further!

Other countries in Asia have similar festivals on and around July 7. Research traditions for the Qixi Festival in China, Chilseok in South Korea, and That Tich in Vietnam.

Engage students in a country research project!

Using a Draft Book, students are guided through the research process and complete a variety of graphic organizers as they learn about the geography and culture of Japan. Project templates are created to share their discoveries through an interactive notebook or presentation board.

Learn about other Japanese celebrations.

March 3 Hina Matsuri: Japanese Doll Festival

November 15 Shichi-Go-San: A Traditional Japanese Birthday Celebration