Moving and Fighting Tanabata – only in Rikuzentakata

Tanabata is a Japanese tradition that dates back all the way to the year 755. Originally inspiried by the well-known Chinese folklore story, “The Weaver Girl and the Cowheard,” the festival takes throughout Japan on various days betwen July 7th and mid-August.

Although Tanabata festivals take place all over Japan, each town celebrates in their own way. However, there are some common themes, such as building colorful floats and writing wishes for the future on small strips of white paper

In Rikuzentakata, there are actually two Tanabata festivals. The first is called Ugoku Tanabata (“Moving” tanabata), in which each neighborhood decorates their own float and then pulls it around town, taiko drummers keeping the beat from inside the float.

ugoku jpg
Two Ugoku Tanabata floats make their way throught the old downtown area


The second festival is called Kenka Tanabata (“Fighting” tanabata), and consists of four floats that square off in two one-on-one battles for dominance. In this 900 year-old tradition , the floats crash into each other with a mighty force while men standing bravely on top swipe at the opposing team with long bamboo poles. It may sound violent, but it is all in good fun.

These Kenka Tanabata floats are about to collide


Rikuzentakata’s double Tanabata celebration gives visitors a good chance to get a taste of traditional Japanese culture, and gives locals ample chance to cheer on their neighborhood float and feel the collective Rikuzentakata spirit.

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