According to legend, the Tanabata Festival is the only day when the separated lover deities—Orihime and Hikoboshi—can meet across the Milky Way. Because of those star-crossed lovers, it's also called the Star Festival. During this day, cities are decorated with strips of coloured paper and origami, often depicting someone's wishes. These strips are attached to trees and buildings or floated down rivers. In big cities, merchandisers compete for the best decorations, resulting in a multitude of beautiful and spectacular colours.
The Tanabata Festival has been celebrated in Japan since 755. This bright tradition stems from China's Qixi Festival. History has it, it was Empress Koken, the country's 46th monarch, who picked up the tradition and introduced the Star Festival to Japan. People loved the idea and it soon became a part of Japanese culture.
The festival is celebrated across the country. The date of the festival depends on the region, but usually, it falls on the first week of July, while other places celebrate further into July and sometimes also in August.
Tokyo is known for some of the finest celebrations. Check out the Asagaya Tanabata Festival, Shitamachi Tanabata, and Zojoji Tanabata—all held within the capital city. Other cities famous for their Tanabata Festivals include the city of Hiratsuka, located an hour south of Tokyo. Another one is the city of Sendai that hosts the Tanabata Festival annually between August 6 and 8.