The Fourth of July is a great summer “festival” in the U.S., a day to celebrate America’s birthday, eat hot dogs and enjoy some fireworks. While there is a national foundation day in Japan — Feb. 11, commemorating the crowning of the first Japanese Emperor Jimmu in 660 B.C. — the Japanese aren’t much for showing patriotism, as it’s associated with the nationalism of the country’s past. Instead, they’ll ring in the summer with Tanabata, the Festival of the Weaver, on July 7. Based on a famous Chinese tale about the stars Altair and Vega (named Prince Hikoboshi and Princess Orihime in the Japanese version of the tale) who were separated by the “River of Heaven” (the Milky Way), and who can only see each other once a year on this day. Tanabata is a great time to stroll through the streets of your local town and take in all the colorful decorations, hear performances of taiko drums, drink beer and eat yakisoba noodles, and help carry an omikoshi (a “portable shrine”) around the town. Quite different from the Fourth of July, but at least there are usually fireworks.
Tanabata is a fun day in Japan.