Sendai Tanabata Museum

A festival all year round

By Justin Velgus    - 3 min read

Tanabata is a traditional summer time festival taking place across all of Japan. The main attraction of the festival is the lines of majestic streamers hanging from bamboo poles that line city streets. These handmade works of art eagerly invite passerbys to admire their beauty. While most Tanabata Festivals occur on and around the "seventh day of the seventh month" (July 7th), Sendai Tanabata is different. The city of Sendai takes the passive art displaying festival to a grander level, but does so a month later around August 6th-8th (with a fireworks celebration on the night of the 5th). Sendai Tanabata is the most famous tanabata festival in Japan, but few people know you could actually appreciate this unique event all year round at the Sendai Tanabata Museum. 

Located conviently next to another (mostly) free attraction, the Kanezaki Kamaboko Factory, the Tanabata Museum is small but with plenty of charm. While there are a few English signs, it is no surprise what you are looking at. The paper tanabata decorations consist of a sphere with hanging down streamers. Typically the streamers hang low enough for people to touch and walk through--and it is the same at this museum. Each Tanabata decoration is a true one of a kind. All handmade by individuals, companies, or community groups, the colors and patterns are as wild as the imagination. Step inside the museum. After walking through a brief hallway which plays an introduction video, you enter the main chamber. Tanabata decorations dangle from the high ceiling and large size puppets of popular Sendai mascots hang from strings to silently greet you from the back wall. There is usually a staff member stationed here as well, though they may or may not speak English. 

A spiraling staircase with more tanabata decorations you must swim through leads to a second floor. A small table in a darkened corner has pens and paper. It is here you can write a poem or wish. After you are done, tie the paper to the bamboo branches. The last section of the museum is a hallway leading back to the entrance. On the right side of the wall are old tanabata festival posters from years past. On the left are particular decorations often tied to decorations with an explanation in Japanese. For example, you'll see a purse as a prayer for wealth, a garbage bag for cleanliness, a net for a large catch of fish, and a kimono for skill in sewing.

The Sendai Tanabata Museum is no match for the real thing, but it is a fun introduction open year round. Unlike the hoardes of people around the festival day, an uncrowded museum setting allows visitors to look closely at decorations and take pictures at a leisurely pace without bothering others. Access via 20-30 minute bus ride from JR Sendai Station. Buses come two to three times an hour. Alternatively, walk 30 minutes from Fukudamachi Station on the Senseki Line. Free parking onsite. 

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Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin’s over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background of studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and working for the government in Fukushima. He lives in the gyutan capital of the world, Sendai.   Justin is an expert in local culture and history. He was the first foreign volunteer at Sendai City Museum and regularly advises the local volunteer guide group GOZAIN , which he is a veteran member, on guiding techniques and hidden locations in the city even locals don't know about. In his free time he enjoys delivering original walking tours, such as his Dark Sendai Tour (ghost tour) or Kokubuncho Mystery Tour (redlight district tour). Justin is also a Certified Sake Professional.

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