July 7th is called tanabata in Japan. It's a Japanese tradition where in people write their wishes on tanzaku papers (colorful, small strips of papers) and hang them on bamboo branches. People also hang many kinds of paper decorations on bamboo branches and place them outside their houses. Many cities and towns hold tanabata festivals and have tanabata displays, decorating the main streets. In some regions, people light lanterns and float them on the river, or float bamboo leaves on the river.
The most common tanabata decorations are colorful streamers. Streamers are said to symbolize the weaving of threads. Other tanabata decorations are toami (casting net), which means good luck for fishing and farming and kinchaku (hand bag), which means wealth.
Tanabata originated more than 2,000 years ago with an old Chinese tale called Kikkoden.
Long ago, the God in the heaven had a daughter named Orihime
(means Weaver, the star Vega). She was everyday weaving cloths for the God using weaver called as tanahata
. The God was anxious about too hard working daughter and one day he introduced a youngster named Kengyuh
(means Cowherd, the star Altair) who also works hard taking care of cows. And they fell in love at the first glance and they now forgot their work letting the cloths of God wasted and cows in ill.
The God was angry about it and let them live apart separated by Ama no kawa
(River in the Heaven, the Milky Way). Then Orihime
was weeping all day long. The God pitied her and allowed them to meet once in a year at the night of 7th of July (July is the seventh month. Seven was lucky number from that time).
If it rains on this occasion, the River of Heaven is flooded and prevent them to meet. Therefore, on 6th of July, people pray for them not to rain on this day, dedicating Tanzaku
(a strip of poetry paper) to the star in various colors writing their wishes (including people's own wishes) hanging them on leafy bamboo.
These are attractive enough to be called summer Christmas trees. This is the "Star Festival". This story is a Chinese legend. Originally, this festival was held among the Court nobility. It is since Edo era (1603-1867) that this festival becomes established among the people at large.
In recent years, cities like Sendai attract sightseers by decorating their shopping street arcades with these tanabata
decorations on a large scale.