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Sendai Tanabata Festival

Reunited lovers at Japan’s most iconic Tanabata celebration.

Sendai Tanabata, the most iconic star festival in Japan, draws more than 2 million tourists each year. They come to marvel at its live performances, fireworks and gigantic handmade streamers floating high above the spectators.

Tanabata Festival in Sendai city.

At 3-and-a-half meters long and hanging 10 meters in the air, the traditional streamers, which are seen throughout the city of Sendai, show off the elegance and beauty the festival is known for. Dating back to the creation of Sendai, the second largest city north of Tokyo, the festival doesn’t follow the old Chinese calendar as other Tanabata festivals do.

This means you can catch the festival every Aug. 6 to 8 (instead of in July like elsewhere in Japan) while checking out some of the other famous summer festivals of the northern Tohoku region.

Tanabata inspired which emoji?

Emoji Japan
Inspired by the story of Hikoboshi and Orihime, who were lovers tragically separated to opposite sides of the Milky Way by Orihime’s father, the festival celebrates the one day a year they can meet. Represented by the stars Altair and Vega, the lovers can cross the Milky Way and meet for a single day, when the stars are at their closest, and only if it doesn’t rain. This day is Tanabata, and it is from their story that the traditions of wish making and handcrafting elegant streamers, resembling the Milky Way, were born. (Actually, in modern times, this is represented now by the ? emoji.)

Along with Akita Kanto and Aomori Nebuta, the Sendai Tanabata forms one of “The Great Three” festivals of Tohoku, known as Sandai Matsuri.  In a region famous for its vibrant and spectacle-driven festivals, this title is hard earned.

Know before you go

While the official festival dates are Aug. 6-8, the city holds a 16,000-strong firework event by Hirosegawa River on Aug. 5, from 7 p.m., to kickstart the festival. Once you’re finished taking in the streamers swaying in the arcades, head to Kotodai Park where you’ll find live music, festival food and a chance to write your own wishes, tanzoku, and hang them amongst the bamboo (Yup, and that’s why this ? emoji exist, too!) For walking routes, check out the official English map.

As one of Japan’s top Tanabata celebrations, it’s worth a trip to see this vibrant city light up every August.


Emoji Japan

A Year in Japan Through Emoji

What emojis like 🎍, 👹  and 🎏  actually mean, how to partake in Japanese celebrations using them, plus some go-to phrases.


Things To Know

Annual festival

Date: Aug. 6 to 8. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.



How To Get There


10, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi 980-0021, Japan

By train

Take either the Tohoku-Hokkaido or Akita bullet train to Sendai station. From Tokyo station, it takes about an hour and a half.

By bus

Take a 7-hour overnight bus or shorter 5-hour day buses leave from Tokyo station, Yaesu South Exit, and arrive at Sendai Bus station daily.

By car

Just over a four-hour drive up the Tohoku Expressway from Tokyo, but be aware that traffic and parking are highly restricted and guidance is only available in Japanese.

Where To Stay

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Sendai Nishiguchi Premier
  • 3-7-25 Chuo, Sendai-shi Aoba-ku, Miyagi, 980-0021 Japan
  • ¥11,120 - ¥53,340
  • 4.48/5 (509 reviews)
  • 0.1 km
Hotel Metropolitan Sendai
  • 1-1-1 Hoterumetoroporitansendai, Sendai-shi Aoba-ku, Miyagi, 980-8477 Japan
  • ¥12,000 - ¥160,000
  • 4.19/5 (3,734 reviews)
  • 0.1 km
Richmond Hotel Premier Sendai Ekimae
  • 2-1-1 Chuo, Sendai-shi Aoba-ku, Miyagi, 980-0021 Japan
  • ¥9,200 - ¥54,500
  • 0.2 km
Comfort Hotel Sendai West
  • 3-5-11 Chuo, Sendai-shi Aoba-ku, Miyagi, 980-0021 Japan
  • ¥6,700 - ¥32,400
  • 0.2 km
Koko Hotel Sendai Station West
  • 3-8-27 Chuo, Sendai-shi Aoba-ku, Miyagi, 980-0021 Japan
  • ¥5,400 - ¥63,974
  • 0.2 km

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