Celebrate Tanabata at Kew Gardens

Sendai Tanabata Festival

Celebrate Japan’s ancient summer star festival at Kew Gardens on 2nd and 3rd August, 2017, with taiko drumming, tea ceremony, calligraphy, and more!

What is Tanabata?

Tanabata, also known as the 'Star Festival', is a summer festival held to celebrate the meeting of the deities Orihime (the weaver girl) and Hikoboshi (the shepherd boy) - the Romeo and Juliet of the star world - once a year in the summer.

According to an ancient Chinese legend, the Milky Way separates the lovers (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively), so they can meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month by the lunisolar calendar. In Japan, people celebrate Tanabata by writing their wish on a small strip of coloured paper called 'tanzaku' and hanging it on a bamboo wish tree called ‘sasadake’, sometimes with other star-themed decorations.

Sendai Tanabata Festival ©Yasufumi Nishi

Celebrate Tanabata at Kew Gardens

Visitors are invited to celebrate the star festival at TANABATA, a two-day event at Kew Gardens with a variety of workshops, activities and performances to mark this ancient summer event.

Join a series of all-day workshops where you can try your hand at Japanese calligraphy and write your wishes on a ‘tanzaku’, learn how to make origami, follow the Tanabata Treasure Trail, and discover the fascinating story of Tanabata through ‘kamishibai’, Japanese storyboard theatre performances by A Thousand Cranes theatre company.
 
This year’s Tanabata event will also include extra special additions such as performances of the tea ceremony in a tea house containing an art installation and ‘guerilla’ taiko drumming throughout the gardens.

Watch a tea ceremony performed by Akemi Kamimura of Waso Japan in an installation of the Open Weave Tea Room by Japanese architect Shinichiro Hashiguchi. Fine twisted strings for making ‘fusuma’ (sliding doors) are used to create an enchanting space, which demonstrates the delicate craft of the loom, refined and perfected over the years. Hashiguchi will be present on both days to tell people about the project.

Sendai Tanabata Festiva ©Yasufumi Nishi

Meanwhile, Joji Hirota’s exciting London Taiko Drummers will perform taiko drumming in the bamboo gardens and other locations around Kew Gardens. Founded by Hirota in the early 1980s, the troupe has performed at concerts and international festivals around the world. Follow the rhythmical sound of the drums to discover them performing throughout the grounds!

Kew Gardens are home to one of the UK’s largest collections of bamboo, with approximately 1,200 bamboo species growing around a ‘minka’ Japanese farmhouse. They also boast a well-manicured Japanese landscape garden designed to complement the Gardens’ Japanese gateway. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy London Taiko Drummers’ powerful performances in this beautifully authentic setting.

The TANABATA event is being held in collaboration with The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Japan House London, the Embassy of Japan, and the Japan Society. For further information, please visit Kew’s website.

Hokoku-ji Temple, Kanagawa

About Japan House

Opening on London’s Kensington High Street, Japan House London aims to be a total experience, exploring Japan’s appetite for both tradition and the new as expressed in its approach to innovation and creativity. Spread across three floors in a stunning Grade II listed Art Deco building that was formerly Derry & Toms department store, it will offer an immersive encounter with Japan through food, exhibitions, retail, workshops, performance, film, events and seminars. 

In the lead-up to its launch, Japan House London will be popping up all over, offering a taste of what to expect once it opens. TANABATA is one of many Japan House London events set to take place in the run-up to its grand opening. To be kept in the know about pre-opening events, follow Japan House London on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @japanhouseldn.