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TANABATA Festival 2019

  • ʻImiloa Astronomy Center 600 Imiloa Place Hilo, HI, 96720 United States (map)

Sunday, July 7 from 10am - 3pm.

2019 marks a remarkable milestone for Subaru Telescope as it celebrates its 20th anniversary of outstanding research and extensive community outreach here on Hawai‘i Island. Subaru Telescope has partnered with the Hawai‘i Japanese Center (HJC),  the Hilo Meishoin Tsukikage Odorikai, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Industry of Hawai‘i (JCCIH) and ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center to host a fun-filled celebratory event on Sunday, July 7,  from 10am – 3pm to commemorate this impressive achievement, observe the annually held Tanabata Festival and to thank the community for its support of Subaru Telescope.  This free-admission, family friendly event at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is made possible by Subaru Telescope and National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

“Over the last 20 years, Subaru Telescope has conducted 3,600 nights of observation and produced over 1,900 scientific papers. From finding exoplanets and mapping dark matter, to observing galaxies over 12 billion light-years from Earth, we take pride in our numerous significant discoveries,” said Subaru Telescope’s Director, Dr. Michitoshi Yoshida.

“We are indebted to the people of the Big Island for their support. To express our arigato (thank you or gratitude), we are very excited to partner with ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, JCCIH, and HJC to celebrate our 20th anniversary at the Tanabata Star Festival. This admission-free event is funded by donations from the staff of  the TMT-Japan office at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan,” Yoshida added. For more information on Subaru Telescope, visit

July 7th is the annual Tanabata, or star festival, in Japan.  This festival traces its origins to a legend that the Cow-herd Star (Altair) and Weaver Star (Vega), lovers separated by the Milky Way, are allowed to meet just once a year - on the seventh day of the seventh month. Though there are several different versions, the core of the story remains the same. It is based on a Chinese folktale titled “The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd.”  In Japan, children and adults write their wishes on tanzaku (colorful narrow strips of papers) and hang them on bamboo trees along with other decorations. They then pray hard for their wishes to come true.

The Hawaii Japanese Center has staged a very popular Tanabata Festival aimed at the community for the past three years.  “Thanks to our partnership with the members of the Tsukikage Odorikai bon dance group and our HJC volunteers, we have provided such cultural activities as kimono dressing and picture-taking, tanzaku (wishes), somen nagashi, story-telling, matsuri dancing, and a wide variety of children’s games and make-and-take crafts. This year, we are pleased to participate in this joint project with Subaru Telescope and the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center along with support from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawai‘i in order to reach an even larger audience,” said Arnold Hiura, president and executive director of HJC. For more information on HJC, visit

This year’s celebration will start with a taiko drum performance followed by the making of Tanzaku wishes, kimono fashion show, puppet story-telling, somen-nagashi, calligraphy, kokeshi doll making, origami, bon dance and a variety of hands-on activities for all ages to enjoy.  Coveted door prizes will be distributed to lucky winners attending the planetarium presentations. Scripts will be sold at a nominal fee for food and select activities. 

In addition HJC’s celebration of Tanabata for the general community, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Industry of Hawai‘i (JCCIH) annually organizes a Tanabata Festival event that is targeted towards the business community.  “In 2014, Dr. Nobuo Arimoto, former director of Subaru Telescope, presented the festival idea to the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Industry of Hawai‘i (JCCIH) Education Committee. His goal was to create an event that would help connect Subaru Telescope’s staff with members of the community. The education committee chair at the time, Audrey Takamine, helped shape this idea into one of JCCIH's most popular annual events,” according to President of JCCIH, Steve Ueda.  “Tanabata blends culture, music, singing, and food. JCCIH is excited and honored to be a part of this festival and we look forward to perpetuate and grow this event that celebrates both the Japanese culture and our fascination and love of the stars and astronomy,” added Ueda. For more information on JCCIH, visit

“We are excited for this grand double celebration. Subaru Telescope has been a great partner throughout the twenty years of their presence here and we look forward to more collaboration with them to advance the education of science, culture and community outreach. We are also very thankful to JCCIH, HJC, and Hilo Meishoin Tsukikage Odorikai for their steadfast efforts to promote the traditions of the Tanabata Festival for the past several years.  It is through such partnerships that we are able to showcase the rich tapestry of the various cultures in our wonderful and diverse community,” said Ka’iu Kimura, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s executive director.

Sharing Hawai‘i’s legacy of exploration, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is a world-class center for informal science education located on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. Its centerpiece is a 12,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall, showcasing science and Hawaiian culture as parallel journeys of human exploration guided by the light of the stars. The visitor experience is amplified with presentations using ‘Imiloa’s full dome planetarium and 9 acres of native landscape gardens. The Center welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year, including 12,000+ schoolchildren on guided field trips and other educational programs. ‘Imiloa is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off of Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH Hilo Science and Technology Park. For more information, visit or call 808-932-8901.   

Earlier Event: June 28
Later Event: July 12