In the summer, there are numerous festivals held in Japan!
Although there are about three hundred thousand festivals in Japan, did you know most of them are held in the summer? For Japanese people who enjoy festivals, summer is a special season to be waiting for.
This article will introduce you to five major summer festivals in Japan. Summer may already be nearly over this year, but why not mark these festivals in your calendar ready to plan your next trip! Don’t forget to give them a visit if you find yourself here in the season!
1. Gion Matsuri Festival
Gion Matsuri is one of the biggest and most famous festivals in Kyoto, and it is also considered as one of the three major festivals in Japan. It is held from the beginning of July, for a total of 1 month. This festival has a long history as it started more than 1,000 years ago. Both the fact that it is such an ancient event and the long period it is open to visitors to make it extra special!
Among the attractions of this festival, the most noticeable would be ‘yamaboko-junko’ which is held annually on July 17. On this day, you are able to see ‘yamaboko’ (a festival float mounted with a decorative halberd ) go around the city. There can be up to 23 yamaboko and the moment they make turns is very exciting to watch!
2. Nebuta Festival
This festival is held from August 2nd to 7th, a total of 6 days every year. From 2nd to 6th, the festival is open every night. On the last day the Nebuta Festival starts from noon til’ night. There are firework displays, and Japanese fireworks have been known never to disappoint!
Another special point of this festival is that it features a lot of gigantic floats, known as ‘nebuta’. It can cost up to more than 20 million yen, and take about 3 months to prepare the nebuta. The number of human labor required for production can surpass 300 people. They are made of specific Japanese papers, and more than 2,500 pieces are used for each festival.
On the last day of August 7, visitors can enjoy the fireworks alongside with the amazing sight of nebuta floating in the ocean!
3. Sendai Tanabata Festival
This festival is for celebrating a late ‘tanabata’ which is held from August 6 to 8 every year in Sendai city, Miyagi prefecture. ‘Tanabata’ is known as the festival of stars which was originally celebrated on July 7 every year. Sendai Tanabata festival is held a month later. It is 1 of the 3 major festivals in Tohoku area, and more than 2 million people visit it every year.
There are 7 kinds of tanabata ornaments to be seen during the Sendai Tanabata festival, and each of them have different meanings. The ornaments can stand for: success in study, health, long life, wealth, success in the fishing industry, cleanliness, and lastly – a symbol of ‘orihime’ (a female textile worker who appears on the story of tanabata).
4. Yosakoi Festival
This festival is held in Kochi prefecture from August 9 to 12 every year. This festival is known as one of the 3 biggest festivals in Shikoku area. The exclusive point of this festival is that there are people divided into 200 teams to compete in dancing or making sounds by clappers called ‘naruko’. The naruko is also the symbol of this festival!
On August 9, the eve of this festival, there is a firework event, and you can see more than 4000 firework displays on this day. Pretty awesome, right? The main festivals are held from August 10 to 11, and there is an event held on the night after the last day of the festival. In total, about 1 million people participate in this festival annually. Men and women of all ages welcome to participate in the activities in Yosakoi Festival, so it is very popular among Japanese residents.
This is a festival held in Tokushima prefecture, and it is recognized as one of the 3 major dance festivals in Japan.
Awa Odori is held from August 12 to 15, and this is also a historical festival whose history is more than 400 years.
In Tokushima Prefecture, there are a large number of elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools that teach students the traditional ‘awa-odori’ dance during PE class. The significant feature of this festival is that they use Japanese traditional musical instruments during dancing performances, and the dance acts are divided into men’s and women’s with various costumes.
If you are travelling to Japan in the summer, it will be very easy for you to find a festival anywhere in the country! The best thing is, entrance to these festivals is usually free. Not only are there amazing scenes such as plentiful floats in the sea or colorful fireworks, but also exciting activities and events for you to join in.
Participating in these festivals will help you gain great insights into the Japanese culture and surely will leave you with many lovely memories! So why not look for one right away and spice up your summer experience?
Aika Kaise / Japan