Tanabata Star Festival
Japanese culture

Make a wish upon a “Bamboo”, how can Muslims enjoy Star Festival in Japan?

A traditional festival in early summer.

If your journey to Japan falls on 7th July, congratulations! You are very lucky to enjoy this special day.

7th of July is called Tanabata, which in English is Star Festival. You may see lots of decorations for this festival, and you will be able to enjoy some special things done on this day.

Although this festival was once celebrated throughout Asia, Japan is the only country that celebrates even in modern days. Let’s take a look at what you can see when visiting Japan during this time of the year!

You can learn more about Japanese season and events here.

History of Tanabata, how did it start?

The custom originally came from ancient Chinese legend.

7th of July is early summer, and we can see Milky Way and stars. Two summer constellations called Vega and Altair in old Chinese society were believed to be a couple. Only once in a year, on the day of Star Festival, they can see each other by passing Milky Way.

How romantic! Also, Vega and Altair were gods of sewing and agriculture, so it became a day to wish a success on their sewing and harvest.

The custom to decorate bamboo started in 8th century in Japan, and it was a festival among nobles. They used a piece of paper to write a poem and put them on bamboos.

Why bamboo? Because it is a sacred plant which was believed to ward off the evils, so that it was chosen as an ideal plant to give to the gods.

What do we do on this day?

In modern Japan, we decorate the bamboos with colorful papers, writing our wishes. These bamboo trees can be seen in many places and some of them will accept your wishes, too!

As it is early summer, some of Japanese people will enjoy the festival wearing Kimono or Yukata. There will be some festivals with food stalls, so wearing Yukata and walking in the festival can be your best experience in early Japan, too.

Not sure how you can enjoy Kimono? Read this article.

The biggest Tanabata Festival in Japan.

Tanabata Festival is held throughout Japan, but the biggest one is held in Sendai, Miyagi. Their festival is also one of the three festivals in Tohoku region.

The custom to celebrate Tanabata became popular because of a Samurai who governed the area. His name is Date Masamune. Each family had their own custom to celebrate the festival, and they are passed down to generations.

Sendai Tanabata Festival
Tanabata Festival in Sendai.

However, the important thing is that the festival is held in August, not in July in Sendai. Tanabata was held on 7th July in Lunar Calendar, which is approximately one month later in the current Solar Calendar.

In 2023, Tanabata Festival in Sendai will be held on 6th to 8th of August, with Fireworks on 5th August.

You can also check Sendai Halal Travel Guide.

What to eat? Is there something Muslims can enjoy?

Unlike other festivals, we do not have specific food to eat on Tanabata Festival. As summer is just around the corner, some people will have Somen Noodle on Tanabata festival.

Somen is a noodle made from oil and flour, which in English is sometimes called as fine noodle. It can be eaten hot, but it is generally served cold to enjoy during summertime when our appetite is lost.

The great thing about this noodle is that they are sometimes prepared as Nagashi Somen. This literally means Flowing Somen, whose meaning came from a style how we serve the noodle. People catch Somen noodle that flows down in a slide made of bamboo, with their chopsticks.

Bamboo is another symbol of Star Festival, so there might be an event where you can enjoy this Japanese tradition.

The noodle itself is Halal, but the soup to dip the noodle may contain soy sauce and Mirin, sometimes animal-derived ingredients if the soup is made from instant Dashi stock. Just make sure to enjoy with a Halal Somen soup to enjoy the experience.

Enjoy Tanabata!

It is a custom that represents early summer in Japan, and you may feel great ambiance if you are lucky to visit during this time. The event focuses more on decoration, not on food, so that even Muslims can enjoy the day without worrying if the food is Halal or not.

Check if there is any Tanabata event at the place you visit. We hope you all can enjoy the festival!