The Tanabata Festival comes once a year. However, you can enjoy its traditional cuisine anytime with delicious, cold somen noodles. With a variety of options for decorations, the possibilities are as numerous as the stars.
Japan certainly doesn’t have a shortage of festivals. From its New Year’s celebration in January to Shichi-Go-San in November, it feels as if there is always something to celebrate. One of its most famous festivals is the Tanabata Festival
, which is celebrated in July. Read on to find out more about this celebration and the perfect dish to accompany it!
What is the Tanabata Festival?
On the seventh day of the seventh month, Japan celebrates the Tanabata Festival. This event is also known as the “Star Festival.” It is the observance of the reunion between two literally star-crossed lovers. On the night of the festival, the star Vega (named Orihime in the story) crosses the Milky Way to be with Altair (Hikoboshi). To encourage and celebrate their reunion, the Japanese pray for clear weather and decorate the town with brightly colored decorations. They write their wishes on tanzaku, small pieces of colored paper, and send them down the river on decorations or bamboo sticks for extra good luck.
Eating Cold Noodles
There are many traditional foods
to enjoy during the Tanabata Festival. One of the main traditions of the Tanabata Festival is eating deliciously cold somen noodles. Their clear white threads resemble the Milky Way and represent Orihime’s weaving. This light and healthy dish also relates to the wish for a healthy summer to come. The cool noodles are in perfect contrast to the hot and humid weather of July.
Eating somen noodles happens year round in Japan, but Tanabata somen is something special. Part of preparing the somen for the Tanabata Festival involves its unique decoration. To top your own somen, thinly cut vegetables, eggs or ham into star shapes
. This represents the characters of Orihime and Hikoboshi. Okra, with its natural star shape, is also a perfect topping. The bright colors of the somen toppings add an air of festivity to the dish. To keep the noodles cold, serve them on a bed of ice. You can use savory dipping sauces as well.