Tanabata Matsuri (Tanabata Festival)

Tohoku's Tanabata festival, one of the largest in Japan, is held every year from August 6 to 8 and is heralded by a massive fireworks display. The festival is believed to have evolved from a Chinese legend of a weaver girl (the star Vega, in her afterlife) and her cowherd boyfriend (the star Altair, in his). As lovers tend to do, they slowly went mad, and began to spend their time idly, living as if in a dream. The jealous ruler became irate and banished them to the far sides of his kingdom (the Milky Way). But he relented, perhaps remembering some foolish love affair of his own, and allowed them to meet on one day a year: the seventh day of the seventh month.

The festival held here annually in their honor creates a great reservoir of energy. Colorful streamers flutter from every perch in town. To walk along the arcades with the endless streamers brushing down against your face, neck, and shoulders—as you bump against and smile back at other enraptured souls also seduced by the whole grand pageant—is to feel glad to be alive and in Sendai at such a wonderful time.

From 5 pm on the evening of the sixth, parades, dances, events, and demonstrations of festival spirit are held nightly through the eighth, along a short stretch of Jozen-ji-dori between Kotodai Park and Bansui-dori. The tourist information office in JR Sendai Station can help with more details, also contained in countless pamphlets.

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