View all Events

Cultural Festivals

Tanabata, The Star Festival

Drawing of a Orihime and Hikoboshi on a bridge of magpies holding hands while looking at each other lovingly.
Illustration of Orihime and Hikoboshi by George Katagiri, who was a longtime friend of Portland Japanese Garden.

Tanabata, the Star Festival, is one of five seasonal festivals that has been celebrated in Japan since the 8th century. Each summer in Japan, people prepare for the festival by writing their wishes on narrow strips of paper called tanzaku and hanging them with other origami paper ornaments on bamboo branches displayed at the entrance to their homes and public places. Guests attending Portland Japanese Garden’s Tanabata celebration will be invited to the Yanai Classroom to write their own wishes on tanzaku. Volunteers will be present to assist guests with hanging their tanzaku on the bamboo in the Crumpacker Bamboo Allee, adding to the colorful display. The festival will also feature music from Takohachi featuring storytelling of the Tanabata story.


10:30am – 2:30pm PDT: Wish writing in the Yanai Classroom.

To be determined: Musical performances by Takohachi featuring storytelling of the Tanabata story at the Pavilion’s East Veranda.

More About Tanabata

Tanabata was inspired by an ancient Chinese folk legend of two stars—Hikoboshi, the Cowherder Star (Altair), and his lover, Princess Orihime, the Weaver Star (Vega). Orihime and Hikoboshi were in love, but banished to opposite ends of the Milky Way by Orihime’s father, the Sky King, for neglecting their work to spend time together. Moved by his daughter’s sorrow over this, the Sky King allowed them to meet just once a year on the 7th night of the 7th month. On this night a flock of magpies use their wings to form a bridge so that Orihime may cross the Milky Way to be united with Hikoboshi. The magpies will only make the bridge if July 7th is a clear night; if it rains, they must wait another year. Because of this legend, many Japanese people pray for a clear night on July 7.