Tanabata Star Festival: Special Night Illumination at Kōdai-ji Temple

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By Cher

On the evening of the Tanabata Festival, the Kōdai-ji Temple in eastern Kyoto comes alive with a stunning night illumination. Lining the main path of the temple are specially-decorated bamboo branches, crafted by young children, for visitors to appreciate. The gardens also transform into an otherworldly ethereal space thanks to beautifully arranged festive lights that celebrate this celestial romance.

The Lore and Significance of Tanabata

Tanabata is an ancient Japanese festival held on July 7th, commemorating the legendary meeting of two heavenly lovers – Orihime and Hikoboshi. These celestial beings are represented by the stars Vega and Altair, separated by none other than the Milky Way galaxy itself. During Tanabata, it’s believed that these two lovers finally reunite, if only for a single night.

Participating in this festival involves writing wishes or prayers onto strips of colored paper known as tanzaku. These strips are then tied to bamboo branches decorated by children and set up at shrines and temples throughout Japan.

Kōdai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple’s Unique Tanabata Celebration

At Kodai-ji Temple, bamboo branches decorated by kindergarten students and schools offer a stunning sight to behold in themselves. These branches are displayed in Zen temple’s car park, creating an atmosphere of wonder and delight for all who visit.

In addition to these impressive displays, a light-up event takes place every evening between 5 pm and 9:30 pm in Kodai-ji’s pay-to-visit garden. With a mere entry fee of around 600 yen, visitors can explore this garden beneath Tanabata’s festive shimmering lights, presenting an unforgettable experience.

Kodai-ji Temple holds significant historical value as one of Kyoto’s designated Places of Scenic Beauty. Established by Nene, the widow of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in 1606, the temple remains a must-visit location at any time of the year.

Capturing the Magic of Tanabata Star Festival

The Kōdai-ji Tanabata Star Festival symbolizes both love and hope, evoking a sense of enchantment and mystery as the night sky unites with the illuminated gardens. This unique celebration provides visitors and locals alike with the opportunity to partake in an ancient tradition by crafting their own tanzaku wishes and admiring the captivating evening lights among bamboo decorations.

Whether one seeks a romantic connection or simply wants to take part in the time-honored customs surrounding Hikoboshi and Orihime’s fateful reunion, attending Kodai-ji Temple’s special night illumination during the Tanabata Star Festival presents an experience like no other. It’s definitely one of the most exciting Kyoto events in July.

The Kōdai-ji Tanabata Star Festival is a captivating event in early July in Kyoto. In relation to the Kōdai-ji Tanabata Star Festival, the Mitarashi Festival is another significant event that occurs in July, specifically from July 21st to 30th.

Both the Kōdai-ji Tanabata Star Festival and the Mitarashi Festival are unique cultural celebrations that showcase the vibrant traditions and spiritual significance of the region. These festivals allow visitors to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of Kyoto, enjoying the beauty of illuminated gardens, enchanting decorations, and participating in traditional rituals.

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