Tanabata: A Golden Opportunity to Connect with Japanese Culture


Thursday July 4, 2019 - Posted by:

If your business is always looking for ways to celebrate different cultures from around the world and engage with international consumers, the month of July provides an excellent opportunity to do so with Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival.

This traditional Japanese event takes place on July 7th every year, with various festivities continuing into August.

It is celebrated in countries all over the world and typically generates a lot of interest and discussion on social media.

What is Tanabata?

Tanabata traces its origins back to the Chinese Qixi Festival and has been part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years.

It is inspired by the well-known folktale of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, who are represented by the stars Vega and Altair, respectively. According to the legend, the two fell in love but were kept apart by the Sky King, who forced them to remain on opposite sides of the ‘heavenly river’, represented by the Milky Way.

Orihime and Hikoboshi are allowed to meet only once a year – on the seventh day of the seventh month. However, the story says that if it rains, the river will rise and the lovers cannot be reunited, so it’s customary to pray for good weather on Tanabata.

Various events take place on July 7th and the following weeks to celebrate this festival. One of the most common activities is for people to write down wishes on pieces of paper and hang them from bamboo plants, in the hope they will be granted by Orihime and Hikoboshi.

International Interest

Interest in Tanabata is certainly not restricted to Japan, with various destinations around the world joining in with this colourful event every year.

Ayutthaya in Thailand, for example, will this year host a traditional fair in a part of the city that was once a Japanese settlement, with activities including an origami workshop, harp performances, ‘taiko’ drumming and a food market.

In New Zealand, meanwhile, the city of Rotorua will hold its own Tanabata celebrations, including paper decorating workshops and storytelling, while Burnaby in Canada will put on a dedicated event at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre.

As these festivities show, Tanabata is a well-known and internationally popular festival that provides plenty of opportunities for some Eastern-influenced culture and fun.

How Businesses Can Get Involved

Tanabata is a unique and characterful event that offers a lot of potential for businesses to inject some topical interest into their marketing or customer engagement efforts.

The festival often gets a lot of people talking on social channels, particularly on Twitter. It could therefore be the ideal time to focus on social media engagement with customers in locations where Tanabata is dominating the online discussion. Putting out messages that acknowledge the event or ask people how they are celebrating it could help to boost your social profile and improve perceptions of your brand.

For some businesses, the influence of Tanabata extends to the design of their products or services. The Yamazato restaurant at Hotel Okura Macau, for example, is offering an exclusive Tanabata-inspired lunch menu that includes chirashi sushi, simmered winter melon, soba noodles with deep-fried tofu, and desserts.

Tanabata – and other popular events like it all around the world, such as the Cinco de Mayo celebrations of Mexican-American culture – could be an opportunity to add something fresh and exciting into your marketing mix. To make the most of occasions such as these, however, you need to be prepared with the right resources and expertise to successfully connect with audiences around the world.

Taking Tanabata as an example, there are various factors to consider before leaping into marketing activities you hope will earn engagement with Japanese customers. These range from the obvious linguistic challenges to the deeper complexities of Japanese culture and how local audiences expect to communicate with brands.

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that, on an international level, Japan has the second-lowest level of trust in major institutions such as businesses, government and the media. Brands therefore need to be sure they are using the right marketing and customer communication strategies to earn the trust of their target audience and to lay the foundations for positive relationships.

Dedicated services such as market research and expert localisation of your online content can help to ensure your investment in international markets delivers returns.

To learn more about how Locaria’s solutions can help you build a global brand and engage with audiences around the world, call us on +44 (0)20 3948 6800, or request a quote online.

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