By Eddy Montilla.
Every year, when August arrives, more than two million visitors from all over Japan and international tourists go to Sendai (capital city of Miyagi Prefecture) to enjoy Tanabata, one of the three great festivals of the region.
The station and the city’s shopping arcades are decked out in thousands of colorful streamers made of Japanese traditional paper (washi). The biggest and most striking ornaments are usually in the shopping arcades of the city. However, Tanabata decorations can be seen in different streets and buildings. In general, local shops prepare these decorations every year, but schools and other institutions and organizations participate too.
The decorations have on the top an ornamental ball called kusudama and streamers that are between three and five meters long.
These impressive decorations are hung from ten meter long bamboo poles.
Seven different small ornaments attached to the main one make Tanabata decorations in Sendai something exceptional. These decorations are paper crane, net, paper kimono, purse, trash bag, paper strips and, of course, the streamers. Each of them has special meaning and symbolizes people’s wishes and prayers for a particular situation. For example, the crane means prayers for long life and good health, the purse for successful business, etc.
Tanabata festivals (also called the Star Festival) are held across Japan in July 7th, but because of the use of different calendars, it is held in August in Sendai. Its origin dates back to more than 2,000 years ago when, according to a Chinese romantic legend of a princess (Orihime) and a young man (Hikoboshi). They fell in love each other and were very happy. Orihime was very good at weaving and made fine clothes, but the princess did not pay attention to her work and his father, the emperor Tentei, decided to separate them and he decreed, as punishment, that the couple would only be allowed to see each other on one night each year: On the seventh day of the seventh month, the moment when two stars, Altair and Vega, cross paths.
Things to see and do
The Sendai Tanabata Festival is held from August 6th to 8th every year. However, what it really marks the start of the festival is a spectacular fireworks display held a night prior to the festival (August 5th). With thousands of fireworks set off from the shores of the Hirose River, this is something worth seeing. It starts around 7:00 p.m., but since people come flocking into town to see the fireworks, it is advisable to be earlier if you want to get a good and delightful spot.
You can also taste traditional Japanese food and sweets since a lot of food vendors and temporary food stands are there for this especial occasion.
And do not forget…
An umbrella!! Yes, it happens every single year: It always rains during the festival. Fortunately, it is not intense rain and it will clear up after a couple of hours.
Good festivals are tested by time. Tanabata festival passed the exam with good grades many years ago. If you want to experience something really good, one of your destinations might be Sendai and its Tanabata festival.
This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion with Eddy Montilla.
Copyright 2014 littlethings4all.wordpress.com. All rights are reserved.