Tanabata, the Star Festival, returned to Zojoji in 2022. I doubt there are better places for it in Tokyo. The temple is beautiful, and Tokyo Tower soars above it in the background. And for this event, there were 3700 candles in the courtyard! It was a beautiful sight.
The candles represented the stars of the Milky Way. It plays a central part in the Tanabata story. And under the evening and almost cloudless night skies, it was so beautiful.
There was a big crowd for the event. It was like every man and his dog had turned up. Many had obviously come straight after work finished. Some had brought dates or came with their families. There were so many people trying to get their photos.
Actually, I need to clarify about the candles. In pre-pandemic years the candles started near the Sangedatsumon Gate to the temple. This year they were only on the two staircases. So there were fewer this time, but it wasn’t a problem. The display still looked like the Milky Way. I got the feeling the crowd was satisfied.
Do you know the Tanabata story?
There once was a princess named Ori. She was the daughter of Tentei (Sky King). Her job was to weave clothes. She did this on the bank of the Amanogawa (Milky Way). Her father loved her work because she was so good at it.
But Ori wasn’t. She worked hard and could never meet anyone. This worried her father, who arranged for her to meet a prospective partner. That was Hikoboshi, who was a cowherd. He lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa.
When the two young people met, they fell instantly in love and married. But that caused some problems in the heavens. Ori no longer weaved, and Hikoboshi let his cows stray all over the sky.
Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa. He also forbade them from seeing each other. Ori was overwhelmed. The loss of her husband caused her so much grief. She begged her father to let them meet.
Her father relented and allowed the two to meet annually, on the 7th day of the 7th month. There was a condition: she had to finish her quota of weaving. And that was the origin of the Tanabata festival.
Photography at Zojoji Tanabata Festival 2022
It is a little difficult because there isn’t much light. Candles are notoriously dim, and the light of Tokyo Tower is far away. Here are my tips:
- Photograph with your camera wide open
- Put your ISO as high as possible but try to keep noise and grain under control.
- Use a low shutter speed, but watch out for blur. People who have IBIS on their cameras are so lucky!
Where is Zojoji?
Zojoji is very close to Tokyo Tower. You can read more about the temple in this article. It has all the information you need.
Zojoji Tanabata Festival 2022 was a great night. The layout of the candles as the stars in the Milky Way was on point. It was a splendid night in the temple’s courtyard, with Tokyo Tower lighting the night behind.
For more Tanabata articles, look at:
Please leave your questions and comments below.