K-12 Outreach for Japanese Culture: 7月 / July

This guide is designed for K to 12 instructors who teach Japanese culture and traditions.

七夕 / Tanabata (Star Festival)




July 7th is the day of Tanabata Star Festival. Tanabata is also called Shichiseki by some. Tanabata can be translated directly into “evening of the seventh.” Similar festivals are held in different areas in Asia, and in Japan. Tanabata is one of the five major seasonal events known as Gosekku.

According to the Chinese myth, the night of the seventh day of the seventh month is the only day when Kengyū (Niulang or Altair) and Shokujo (Zhinü or Vega) meet once a year, but are usually separated by the Milky Way. The Chinese people started a celebration called Kikkōden where people pray to improve their sewing and handcrafting skill. This event spread to Japan, and was combined with the myth of tanabatatsume and other native purifying rituals. The Star Festival is celebrated at the Imperial Court since the Nara period (710-784)

Today, the day celebrates the annual meeting of the star-crossed lovers. On the day, many people write wishes on a piece of paper and hang it on sasa or bamboo trees.

天の川 / Milky Way

七夕の笹飾り / A decorated sasa, bamboo tree

七夕祭り / Tanabata Festival

七夕祭り / Tanabata Festival

There are large Tanabata festivals in Japan held at cities such as Sendai city in Miyagi Prefecture and Hiratsuka city in Kanagawa Prefecture. 

仙台七夕祭り / Sendai Tanabata Festival

平塚七夕祭り / Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival

七夕と和菓子 / Tanabata to Wagashi (Star Festival and Sweets)


The Tanabata legend inspires wagashi makers during the Tanabata season in terms of the subject matter and the aesthetics. Many create the sweets that are inspired by the Milky Way. And often times utilizing clear jelly-like material made from kanten (agar powder) or kuzuko (a starchy powder made from the kuzu plant) to achieve a more summery look during the hot months of July. However, the traditional sweets served at the Imperial Court for Tanabata are called “sakuhei.” These are originally imported from Tō (Tang China) by kentō-shi (Japanese missionaries). Sakuhei is made of flour and rice powder, kneaded and shaped like twisted rope and then deep-fried.

A little trivia related to sakuhei is that sōmen, thin summer noodles, were originated from sakuhei. July 7th is also the Day of Sōmen because of this relation.

  • 唐と遣唐使とは?


  • What is Tō and Kentō-shi?

Tō is what Japan called China during the Tang Dynasty (618–690 & 705–907). During that time, Japan sent 19 missionaries or kentō-shi to learn and to exchange cultures and technologies between China and Japan.

七夕の和菓子 / Wagashi Inspired by the Tanabata season
七夕ケーキ(竹と天の川) / Cake inspired by Tanabata (Bamboo and the Milkyway) 

/ Sōmen noodles 

七夕の歌 / Tanabata Song

笹の葉さらさら (Sasa no ha sara sara)

軒端に揺れる (Nokiba ni ureru)

お星様きらきら (Ohoshi sama kira kira)

金銀砂子 (Kingin sunago)


五色の短冊 (Goshiki no tanzaku)

私が書いた (Watashi ga kaita)

お星様きらきら (Ohoshi sama kira kira)

空から見てる (Sora kara miteru)


Bamboo leaves are rustling, rustling

Swaying close to the roof's edge

The stars are twinkling, twinkling

Like gold and silver grains of sand


On five color pieces of paper

I wrote my wishes

The stars are twinkling, twinkling

And gazing at me from the sky