In Japan, people celebrate Tanabata on July 7 every year.
Tanabata is one of the seasonal events and is sometimes called as “Shichiseki” (Seventh Night) or “Hoshimatsuri” (Star Festival).
Today we introduce Tanabata, which is a traditional Japanese culture and its history and how to spend on that day.
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History of Tanabata
Tanabata is a traditional Japanese event, originally intended to pray for a bountiful autumn harvest and to drive away impurities and evil spirits.
In the old days, selected women stayed in the purified room called “Hataya” (Room for weaving) and wove the clothes where the offerings were to the god. These selected women were called “Tanabatatsume” and the machine for weaving clothes as "Tanabata".
After the spread of Buddhism within Japan, this traditional event was held on July 7 before Obon festival and has been called “Tanabata” since then.
The custom to celebrate Tanabata is done not only in Japan, but also in several Asian countries including China. Also, in some places in Europe, this event is held and also is spreading even in the US recently.
In China, they have a custom to celebrate Tanabata on the night of the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, they do incense burning and enjoy traditional meals, etc. Also, some of them give gifts to important persons. The custom of giving gifts to their lovers or families came from the legend of “Orihime” and “Hikoboshi”.
According to the legend, it is said that Vega (Orihime) in the constellation of Lyra, the star of the weaver, and Altair (Hikoboshi) in the constellation of Aquarius, the star of the checkers, who controls agriculture, will be reunited only on July 7 of the lunar calendar, although they have been torn apart by fate. This is because these two stars are at their brightest across the Milky Way on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
These Chinese traditions and cultures were introduced to Japan during the Heian period (794-1192). This was treated as a royal event then and became a casual celebration after Tanabata became one of the five seasonal events during the Edo period.
How people spend on this day
In Japan, people decorate a strip of paper with their wish on bamboo trees after passing through a string. A strip of paper is a thin paper or wood cut into rectangles.
It is said that people started to decorate the strips on the bamboo trees in the old days because they wanted to achieve things and improve their skills just like Orihime who could weave the clothes beautifully.
Food culture on Tanabata Day
There are some traditional foods in Japan which people enjoy eating on this day.
The first one is “Somen noodle” as the traditional food on this day.
Originally, a sweet called “Sakubei” from China was a Tanabata event meal. In China, they had considered that they would remove devils on July by eating “Sakubei” which is made from wheat.
Since the Edo period, people started to offer Somen which is made from the same wheat and the custom of eating Somen on this day started.
It is a tasteful way to serve Somen in an udon tub or other container.
Chirashi-zushi, a staple for celebrations, is also very popular on this day.
Tanabata is mainly celebrated by children, and most families prepare the bamboo trees for putting on the pieces of paper with their wishes and special food for this day.
It does not mean that they have had a tradition to eat Chirashi-zushi on “Tanabata” day. Children are heroes on this day and that is why they enjoy eating Chirashi-zushi which is popular among children.
It is convenient to use the rice mixing bowl to make Chirashi-zushi.
We can prepare the vinegared rice in the bowl and decorate the sushi ingredients and also it is useful to store the vinegared rice when enjoying Temaki-zushi, etc.
Let’s enjoy “Tanabata” in a Japanese way.
Tanabata in the Japanese way is to decorate the pieces of paper with the wishes on the bamboo trees and celebrate the day by eating Somen or Chirashi-zushi. It is a special day where parents and children can deepen exchanges and have a family get-together while enjoying something a little out of the ordinary.
How about enjoying “Tanabata” elegantly in the Japanese manner on July 7 this year?