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Tanabata, also known as the "star festival", takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month of the year, when, according to a Chinese legend, the two stars Altair and Vega, which are usually separated from each other by the milky way, are able to meet.


Because the 7th month of the year roughly coincides with August rather than July according to the formerly used lunar calendar, Tanabata is still celebrated on August 7th in some regions of Japan, while it is celebrated on July 7th in other regions.


In present-day Japan, people generally celebrate this day by writing wishes, sometimes in the form of poetry, on tanzaku (短冊 tanzaku), small pieces of paper, and hanging them on bamboo, sometimes with other decorations. The bamboo and decorations are often set afloat on a river or burned after the festival, around midnight or on the next day.


This resembles the custom of floating paper ships and candles on rivers during Obon. Many areas in Japan have their own Tanabata customs, which are mostly related to local Obon traditions.


There is also a traditional Tanabata song:


Sasa no ha sara-sara

Nokiba ni yureru

Ohoshi-sama kira-kira

Kingin sunago

Goshiki no tanzaku

watashi ga kaita

Ohoshi-sama kirakira

sora kara miteiru



The bamboo leaves rustle,

shaking away in the eaves.

The stars twinkle

on the gold and silver grains of sand.

The five-colour paper strips

I have already written.

The stars twinkle,

they watch us from heaven.


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Taken on July 8, 2012