Tanabata, also known as Star Festival, is celebrated in many cities throughout Japan on July 7th, but in Kyoto it is celebrated on August 7th in line with the lunar calendar.
Tanabata celebrates the legend of two astrological lovers – Hikoboshi (the Altair star) and Orihime (the Vega star) who are separated by the Milky Way or "river of the heavens". Once a year they are allowed to meet, and this is celebrated by hanging a small paper with our wishes written on it, which are tied to Tanabata bamboo branches. The bamboo branches are displayed throughout the city, and then in mid-August during the Obon-festival, they are collected and ceremoniously burnt spectacularly at the famous Gozan no Okuribi bonfire – sending the wishes to heaven and making all the wishes come true.
Kyoto celebrates the festival over a ten-day period with a number of unique and beautiful evening events all designed around the theme of ‘wishes’ at various iconic locations throughout the city. The events include magical visual installations of Tanabata, illuminations, lightshows, artistic soundscapes, family-fun activities and festive food stalls.
Visitors from the Middle East to Kyoto are encouraged to participate in the Kyo no Tanabata festival just like a local by wearing traditional yukata (summer kimono) and visiting the major event sites where your wishes can also be added to the Tanabata and come true.
A dedicated website has been created by Kyoto City in English highlighting the Kyo no Tanabata events, the locations and further information: http://www.kyoto-tanabata.jp/en/