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One wonderful festival that takes place in Japan in July is the Star Festival, also known as Tanabata. Tanabata means “evening of the seventh”… the Star Festival takes place at night on July 7th every year. Tanabata is originally based on a Chinese legend.

Tanabata celebrates the meeting of a husband and wife. They are Orihime (the star Vega) and Hikoboshi (the star Altair)… to meet they must cross the river Amanogawa (the Milky Way). They can only meet once a year on this night… it’s the one time they can cross the river. The story is that a flock of magpies help Orihime cross the river on this day only. If it’s a cloudy night, that means the river was too high and Orihame and Hikoboshi couldn’t meet. So in Japan everyone wishes for a clear night full of stars on July 7th.

Ayako Egawa in Japan wrote to me about one fun tradition on this day: “Children write their wishes on strips of fancy paper and put them on displays made of the branches of bamboo trees.”

Ayako sent me this photo below with the note, “This is the decoration at Star festival (Tanabata) on July 7th.”

Photo of a Bambo Tree for the Star Festival Tanabata in Japan

Here’s a traditional Tanabata Song that’s sung for the festival. First you’ll find a Japanese transliteration, then the Japanese text, an English translation by me, followed by a YouTube video…

Sasa no ha sara-sara

In Japanese Romaji:

Sasa no ha sara-sara
Nokiba ni yureru
Ohoshi-sama kira-kira
Kingin sunago

In Japanese Text:

笹の葉 さらさら
軒端にゆれる
お星様 キラキラ
金銀砂子

English Translation:

Bamboo leaves are rustling, rustling,
Swaying close to the roof’s edge,
Oh, how the stars are twinkling, twinkling,
Gold and silver grains of sand.

If you’d like to share any photos, songs or memories of this festival, feel free to in the comments below or email me at lisa@mamalisa.com .

Many thanks to Ayako Egawa for letting us know about this festival and for sharing the wonderful photo!

Mama Lisa

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This artilce was posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2009 at 7:15 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Japan, Japanese, Japanese Kids Songs, Languages, Mama Lisa, Sasa no ha sara-sara, Star Festival, Star Festival Songs, Tanabata, YouTube. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “About The Japanese Star Festival – Tanabata – with a Song and YouTube Video”

  1. Rachel Says:

    Hi Mama Lisa,

    I stumbled across this page while doing research for my blogsite http://HowToWriteInJapanese.Blogspot.com.

    This is a lovely video and I’m glad I came across it. It put a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing it. :)

    The Japanese really do know how to celebrate festivals in a simple yet beautiful way. It would be fantastic to get my kids to celebrate a day when they ‘write their wishes on strips of fancy paper and put them on displays made of the branches of bamboo trees’.

    I’ve bookmarked your site for future reference. Hope to blog about your site soon. :)

  2. Amelie Says:

    hello all, maybe u can post more additional stuff? greetz

  3. Teaching Kids about Japanese Festivals | Mama Lisa's World Blog Says:

    […] You can read more about Tanabata. […]

  4. Lesson6 ทะนะิบะตะ(七夕) « ラーシャシーマーウィッタヤーライ高校 โรงเรียนราชสีมาวิทยาลัย สพท.นม.1 Says:

    […] About The Japanese Star Festival – Tanabata […]

  5. The Star Festival: Teaching Tanabata in English – Teaching Village Says:

    […] Mama Lisa’s World Blog includes a nice translation of the Japanese song, which I’ve reprinted here: […]

  6. Emma Says:

    I’ve bumped into your site whilst procrastinating and it is helping me in this endeavour greatly. I love the festival above, thank you.

    I will now commence day-dreaming of my future trip to Japan.

  7. Sable Says:

    That\’s the best awsenr of all time! JMHO

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