Kyo no Tanabata京の七夕



The popular Tanabata Festival in Japan celebrates an ancient legend, originally from China, that tells the story of two lovers, Hikoboshi the cow herd (the star Altair) and Orihime the weaver (the star Vega).

In the story, the two fall in love instantly upon meeting, but because of their love for each other they end up neglecting their heavenly duties.  Orihime’s father, the Sky King, is angry and separates the lovers on either sides of the river, the Milky Way.  However, he allows them to meet once a year, which is the Tanabata Festival.

This festival was merged with another tradition, the Festival to Pray for Better Skills, and so during Tanabata people would write the skills they wished to improve on slips of paper they then hung from bamboo branches.  These days, however, most people write just their wishes, not only the skills they wish to polish.

Tanabata was celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month according to the lunar calendar, so Kyoto celebrates it in August (modern calendars being one month behind the old).  During early August Kyoto citizens can enjoy the Tanabata Star Festival illuminations and events in two separate locations, along the Kamogawa and the Horikawa.


Along the Kamogawa River are charming circular bamboo spheres filled with light and wind chimes, and illuminations and bamboo prayers line the streets and trees.  A stage is set up for events: a yuzen dying exhibition, and a maiko performance. 

In the past, the Horikawa River site has hosted an illuminated bamboo arch tunnel stands in for the Milky Way and yuzen dyed fabrics were set to rinse in the waters beneath colorful lights.  Art students donate to the illuminated bamboo displays placed around the area, and Nijō Castle also hosted several events.

Things to See/Do

  • Geisha Performance

  • Concert

  • Illumination


See the Kyo no Tanabata official English website for more information here.

Notice: In 2021, mass public events are not held to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Kamogawa River