The yearly Sendai Tanabata Festival is known for its gorgeously decorated, handcrafted bamboo poles. On the morning of August 4, the day before the festival starts, many bamboo poles longer than 10 meters are gathered in the shopping districts of Sendai. The bamboo are chopped in the mountains and clipped to prepare them for the decorations.
The shop owners work on their Tanabata decoration for months in advance. The value of a decorated bamboo pole can be hundreds of thousands to several million yen. The custom is to make a set of five poles.
The shop owners keep the content of their decoration secret until the morning of August 6. The decorations are attached to the bamboo poles on August 6, at 8 am. The shops compete to have the most beautiful Tanabata decorations. A contest for the decorations is held in each shopping district in the afternoon of august 6, where the best decorations are awarded with the Bronze, Silver or Gold prize. A plate in the prize’s color is attached to the foot of the decorated poles.
The best part of the festival is seeing how the fine overlapping paper decorations are moved by the wind under fine weather. Rainy weather, however, could ruin it all. When it starts raining the shop owners rush to cover their origami decorations with plastic bags. Big crowds gather in the streets of the city center, Higashi Ichibancho or around the station. The luxurious decorations are a lot less noticeable than the nostalgic street views.
There are 7 types of decorations that are essential to the Sendai Tanabata Festival. Each of these distinctive small ornaments have a meaning, such as wishing for business prosperity or good health. It’s great fun to look for these distinctive decorations at the festival.
- TanzakuPaper Cards | Academic progress and progress in calligraphy skills
- KamigoromoPaper Kimonos | Healing, calamity and progress in sewing skills.
- OrizuruPaper Cranes | Family safety and longevity
- KinchakuPaper Purses | Business prosperity
- ToamiPaper Fishnets | Fishing and harvest
- KuzukagoPaper Garbage Cans | Cleanliness and frugality
- Fukinagashi Paper Windsock | Represents the Tanabata legend’s Weaver Girl’s yarn.