The Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival is held in Ichinomiya City, Aichi Prefecture, which is located between Nagoya and Gifu in central Japan. Taking place from the last Thursday to the last Sunday of July, the festival attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors every year.
2016 marks the 61st celebration of the festival, which will be held from July 28 to July 31.
What is Tanabata?
Tanabata (七夕), also known as the “Star Festival,” is traditionally celebrated on either July 7th or August 7th, depending on where you are in Japan (it's supposed to be the seventh day of the seventh month on the old lunisolar calendar, leading to a number of modern-day fudges and approximations).
The festival has its origins in ancient Chinese legend, and celebrates the meeting of two stars identified with the lovers Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair), tragically separated by the Milky Way. The lovers are only allowed to meet one night of the year, which is Tanabata. It's considered to be one of the most romantic nights of the year in Japan, and is a great time to be outdoors enjoying all that a Japanese summer festival has to offer.
About the Festival
Ichinomiya is famous for its textile industry, hence its strong connection with Orihime, whose name, 織姫, literally means "the weaving princess."
The Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival takes place around the 500-meter-long (1,640-ft) Honmachi Shotengai Shopping Arcade near Owari-Ichinomiya Station. The area is decorated in colorful Tanabata streamers called fukinagashi, which represent the threads Orihime used in her weaving, with long threads also symbolizing long life. Local elementary school children write wishes on small pieces of paper called tanzaku, which are placed on some of the decorations in the hope that the wishes will come true.
The approach to the Honmachi Shopping Arcade is lined with yatai (food stalls) on both sides selling all kinds of delicious Japanese festival food, sweets and toys. The atmosphere has a carnival vibe to it, with many stalls offering festival games and people out and about in yukata (summer kimono).
The climax of the festival is centered along the approach to Masumida Shrine, which was the most important and principal shrine of Owari Province, now modern-day Aichi Prefecture, and dedicated to the god Amenoho no Akari no Mikoto, son of the goddess of fabric and weaving.
The shrine grounds are also decorated in colorful Tanabata streamers with even more food stalls and entertainment. A special stage is set up where you can sit and enjoy some traditional Japanese dance performances.
When the sun goes down, the fun continues with a parade down the Honmachi Arcade to Masumida Shrine to dedicate local products to the shrine for good fortune. The parade features Bon Odori dances, marching, and an open car parade with Miss Tanabata.