Tanabata Festival

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Every year, on 7 July Tanabata festival is celebrated in Japan. At Hotel Okura Amsterdam we celebrate this too. Tanabata, also called Star Festival, is one of Japan’s five traditional festivals ”gosekku”.  In the past, ladies and gentlemen had to sit opposite each other and recite their poems on the spot. Nowadays people write down a wish or love story and hang it in a tree. Although the customs of Tanabata vary from one place to another, a common feature of this festival is the display of bamboo branches decorated with long narrow strips of coloured paper and other small ornaments and talismans. At the entrance of Yamazato Restaurant and Teppanyaki Restaurant Sazanka, you will also find these bamboo branches during Tanabata. You can write a ”Tanzaku-paper” with wishes and romantic aspirations in the tree so it may come true. 

Tanabata bamboo brunches
Tanabata tree

Tanabata is a traditional Japanese celebration based on the ancient folk legend about the love of Orihime and Hikoboshi. In order to prevent the couple from losing themselves in one another, the god of the stars decided that 7 July would be the only day in the year that they were allowed to meet. As such, this day has become a big celebration in Japan, sometimes referred to as Japanese Valentine’s day.


This Japanese holiday/tradition on the seventh day of the seventh month (seven is the number of happiness) is based on an old myth. This myth is about Orihime who wove beautiful cloth for her father, the emperor god, to wear. She was very successful in her work, but wanted to marry. Her father chose Hikoboshi as her husband. This shepherd did not seem the ideal match for such a lady, but a simple man would at least not interfere her work. The plan did not work; they fell in love instantly and got married. Their love and devotion was so deep that Orihime stopped weaving and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to wander the heavens. Orihime’s father became angry and forbade the lovers to be together and separated them with the ‘’Ama no Kawa’’ (the ‘’river’’, the Galaxy). Orihime begged her father to allow them to stay. He loved his daughter, so he decided that the young couple could meet only one day per year. On the seventh night of the seventh month, the couple got together again through a temporary bridge. If it rains on this day, according to the legend, the river will flood. This would hinder the gathering of the two stars. For this reason, the Japanese pray that it will not rain on that day. They do this by hanging coloured paper in small bamboo trees.

Tanabata Festival