Andrea Urbinati

Sendai Tanabata Festival: Everything You Need to Know

Di Andrea Urbinati

blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo
Sendai Tanabata Festival

The Sendai Tanabata Festival, held annually on August 6-8, is a significant and renowned tanabata celebration in Japan. It is one of the largest festivities of its kind and is a part of the Tohoku Sandai Matsuri (Three Great Festivals of the Tohoku Region), along with Akita’s Kanto Matsuri and Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri. The festival features vibrant streamers that adorn the city’s shopping arcades, creating a visually stunning atmosphere. These colorful streamers, handcrafted from washi paper and bamboo, are the highlight of the festival, along with smaller paper decorations symbolizing various wishes and blessings. The event also includes a captivating fireworks display, adding to the celebratory ambiance.

The History and Significance of the Sendai Tanabata Festival

The Sendai Tanabata Festival holds a rich cultural history and signifies a significant aspect of Japanese tradition. Dating back to the early Edo period, the festival is rooted in the legend of Tanabata, a tale of star-crossed lovers represented by the stars Vega and Altair. This legend has been celebrated in various forms across Japan, each region adding its own unique flair to the festivities.

The Legend Behind Tanabata

According to the legend, the Weaver Princess (represented by Vega) and the Cowherd (represented by Altair) are separated by the Milky Way and are only allowed to meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, during the Tanabata festival. This romantic narrative is celebrated through colorful decorations, vibrant parades, and community gatherings, each symbolizing the reunion of the celestial couple.

Sendai’s Take on the Star Festival

Sendai, known for its exuberant celebrations, has embraced the Tanabata festival with exceptional zeal, making its rendition a spectacle to behold. The city’s adaptation of the festival is characterized by the iconic display of vibrant streamers, intricately crafted from washi paper and bamboo, adorning the city’s shopping arcades, evocatively transforming them into enchanting, colorful forests.

Ornaments Hanging for Sale in Market Photo by subbu noir

Lending an aura of enchantment, these streamers symbolize the threads of a loom, embodying the craft and artistry deeply woven into the fabric of Sendai’s celebrated folklore.

The Tohoku Region’s Celebratory Trio

The Sendai Tanabata Festival is part of the revered Tohoku Sandai Matsuri, an illustrious trio of festivals, including Akita’s Kanto Matsuri and Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri. This confluence of festivals embodies the cultural richness and dynamism of the Tohoku region, attracting visitors from far and wide to partake in these exuberant celebrations, each with its distinct allure and local flavor.

With its captivating history and unique traditions, the Sendai Tanabata Festival stands as a testament to the enduring cultural legacy of Japan, inviting locals and travelers to revel in its vibrant festivities.

Sendai Tanabata Festival Highlights

The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, taking place on August 6-8, is a prominent star festival in Japan, featuring vibrant celebrations and symbolic traditions. One of the festival’s main attractions is the colorful streamers adorning Downtown Sendai’s shopping arcades. These meticulously crafted 3-5 meter long streamers, constructed from washi paper and bamboo, transform the city’s streets into a spectacular display of vivid colors, resembling a picturesque forest.

The Colorful Streamers of Downtown Sendai

The streamers symbolize the threads of a loom and serve as a mesmerizing representation of the festival’s spirit, contributing to the enchanting ambiance that engulfs the city during the Tanabata Matsuri.

Moving beyond the visual appeal, the smaller paper decorations, including kimono, nets, cranes, purses, trashbags, and paper strips, further enrich the cultural significance of the festival. Each decoration holds its own meaning, such as warding off bad health, fostering good harvests, and ensuring longevity and safety, adding depth to the festival’s traditional essence.

In addition to the intricate decorations, the festival culminates with a captivating fireworks display held on the eve of the festivities (August 5) around Nishi Park, illuminating the night sky and concluding the celebrations on a dazzling note.

Fireworks Display at Night
Photo by Prathyusha Mettupalle

The Meaning Behind the Paper Decorations

The diversity of paper decorations, each carrying symbolic significance, adds a profound cultural layer to the festival, reflecting traditional beliefs and values cherished by the community.

The Fireworks Display

The spectacular fireworks display on the eve of the Tanabata Matsuri serves as a grand finale, enveloping the city in a mesmerizing symphony of light, color, and jubilation, creating an unforgettable experience for locals and visitors alike.

Experiencing Sendai Tanabata Matsuri

Each year, Sendai comes alive with the vibrant and enchanting Tanabata Matsuri, a celebration that combines ancient traditions with modern festivities. This festival is a sight to behold, offering a rich tapestry of cultural events, tantalizing food and drinks, and stunning decorations. Here’s my insider’s guide to getting the most out of Sendai Tanabata Matsuri.

The Best Spots for Viewing Decorations

The streets of Sendai during Tanabata Matsuri are adorned with breathtaking decorations, featuring colorful streamers, handmade ornaments, and elaborate displays that showcase the city’s artistic flair. To fully immerse yourself in this visual feast, head to Jozenji-dori Avenue, which serves as the heart of the festival. The towering bamboo decorations and intricate paper art installations create a mesmerizing canopy, casting a spellbinding ambiance over the bustling crowds. Another must-see spot is the Ichibancho shopping arcade, where you’ll encounter a dazzling array of traditional Tanabata decorations that pay homage to the festival’s origins.

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri decorations Photo by Jonathan Borba

Cultural Events and Activities

During Tanabata Matsuri, Sendai comes alive with a myriad of cultural events and activities that offer a deeper understanding of Japanese traditions. Visitors can witness captivating performances of traditional music and dance, participate in hands-on workshops to create their own festival decorations, and marvel at the intricate craftsmanship displayed in artisanal market stalls. For a truly immersive experience, don’t miss the mesmerizing spectacle of the Tanabata Parade, where colorful floats and costumed performers weave their way through the streets, accompanied by the infectious rhythms of taiko drums.

Sendai Tanabata Festival, a men walking in the street

Food and Drinks to Try During the Festival

No festival is complete without indulging in the delectable treats it has to offer. Tanabata Matsuri is a paradise for food enthusiasts, with an array of street food stalls offering sumptuous delights. Savor traditional festival favorites like yakisoba (stir-fried noodles), takoyaki (octopus balls), and yakitori (grilled skewered chicken), all bursting with flavor and prepared with consummate skill. Wash down these delectable treats with refreshing drinks such as ramune (Japanese soda) and matcha-infused delights, which are guaranteed to tantalize your taste buds and provide a much-needed respite from the festival’s energetic atmosphere.

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri food and drinks Photo by Askar Abayev

Practical Information for Festival-Goers

The Sendai Tanabata Festival is a vibrant and exciting event that attracts visitors from around the world. If you’re planning to attend this colorful celebration, it’s essential to have all the practical information at your fingertips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Dates and Times for the Sendai Tanabata Festival

The Sendai Tanabata Festival is held annually from August 6th to 8th, attracting millions of visitors during its duration. The festival typically begins at 10:00 AM and continues until 9:00 PM each day, allowing ample time to immerse yourself in the festivities.

How to Get to Sendai and Navigate the Festival

Getting to Sendai is relatively convenient, whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally. The city is accessible by train, with the Sendai Station serving as a central transportation hub. For festival-goers arriving by air, Sendai Airport provides convenient access to the city, with various transportation options available for the short journey into the heart of Sendai.

Upon arrival, navigating the festival is straightforward, with clear signage and helpful volunteers available throughout the festival grounds to assist visitors. The festival’s main attractions are often located in downtown Sendai, making it easy to explore the vibrant displays and performances on foot.

Tips for Enjoying the Festival Responsibly

As you enjoy the festivities, it’s important to do so responsibly. To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all attendees, consider the following tips:

  • Stay hydrated and pace yourself: With a plethora of activities and sights to explore, it’s essential to stay hydrated and take breaks when needed to avoid exhaustion.
  • Respect the surroundings: In the spirit of responsible tourism, make an effort to keep the festival grounds clean and dispose of waste properly.
  • Familiarize yourself with local customs: Embracing the local culture and customs adds depth to your festival experience while demonstrating respect for the traditions of Sendai.

Beyond the Festival: Exploring Sendai

I had the opportunity to explore the vibrant city of Sendai, beyond the exciting festivities of the Tanabata Festival. Here are some must-visit attractions, shopping and dining options, as well as accommodation choices for festival attendees.

Must-Visit Attractions in Sendai

One of the must-visit attractions in Sendai is the serene Sein River. Taking a leisurely stroll along the riverside promenade offers a peaceful escape from the bustling festival atmosphere. The lush greenery and picturesque views of the river create a perfect setting for relaxation and unwinding amidst nature.

Shopping and Dining in Sendai

When it comes to shopping and dining, Sendai offers a diverse range of options to cater to every taste. The lively streets are lined with boutique shops, local markets, and delectable eateries serving up traditional and modern cuisine. From savory street food to elegant dining experiences, Sendai has something to satisfy every craving.

Accommodation Options for Festival Attendees

For festival attendees looking for a comfortable and convenient stay, Sendai provides various accommodation options. Whether it’s a cozy guesthouse, a modern hotel, or a traditional ryokan, visitors can find the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate after immersing themselves in the vibrant energy of the festival.

I look forward to sharing more about my adventures in Sendai in the upcoming sections. Stay tuned for more insights into this enchanting city!


In conclusion, the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri offers a vibrant and visually stunning celebration of Japanese tradition and culture. With its colorful streamers, intricate paper decorations, and lively fireworks display, this festival is a must-see for anyone visiting the Tohoku region in August. The combination of ancient legend and modern revelry makes this event a unique and enriching experience for travelers seeking an authentic taste of Japan’s rich cultural heritage. Whether it’s the picturesque decorations or the lively atmosphere, the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri is a feast for the senses and a true highlight of the Japanese summer festival calendar.

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About the author
blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo

Hi! I’m Andrea, a passionate freelance writer with a knack for captivating storytelling.

With a decade of marketing expertise and a genuine love for crafting compelling content, I bring your ideas to life!

Let me know if you need a writer for your blog!

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