5 ways to enjoy a Japanese summer festival | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

5 ways to enjoy a Japanese summer festival

By Miku Jun 28, 2018

This post is also available in: Spanish

What is your summer vibe? What do you want to do during the Japanese summer time? Lots of Japanese people answer this question with ‘summer festival (Natsumatsuri夏祭り)’. Japanese Summer Festivals are held mostly in July and August to pray for a good harvest and to rid any misfortune of this year, as well as to comfort our ancestors during ‘Obon’ season, which takes place in August. Lots of people attend this festival because it has lots of street shops and events such as fireworks and parades! You can enjoy this summer festival in many ways! Have you got any idea what it might include? I have included some ideas that might make your festival visit more exciting! Here you go!


Watching fireworks

This is one of the most popular things to do at a summer festival in Japan! However, some summer festivals don’t have fireworks because of the specific location or scale of the festival. Therefore, please be sure to check the information of the festival before you go! At a big summer festival it is often incredibly crowded, so you sometimes have to secure a place 3-4 hours before it begins! Some people who want to take the best spot secure a seat from 7am! However, they set off over 20000 fireworks and it is said that Japanese fireworks are incredibly intricate and delicate and are respected for being of such a high level all over the world, so it should be worth the wait! It is also a good idea to go to local, smaller scale firework displays which have between 1000-3000 fireworks in an unoccupied space, where you are able to watch whilst relaxing!


Go to a haunted house

This is also a popular attraction at a summer festival, since some people get a kick out of being frightened! This is a house/room that is decorated as if a ghost may appear (or maybe a real ghost might be there!). The house is very dark inside, so you can barely see anything and can’t guess what will happen or what will come out! There are a lot of people who are waiting around the corners ready to scare you, as well as many scary props and devices. So, it is said that it is maybe a good place to have a date because the girl will hug you after being surprised and scared! However, I personally hate scary places and hope I never get taken their on a date! I don’t wish to be dating in such scary places, so I would not really recommend you to go there for a date! The entrance fee is normally between 500-1000 yen. So, you can easily try a Japanese haunted house at this price.


Join Bon dancing (Bonodori盆踊り)

Do you know Bon dancing (Bonodori盆踊り) or have you heard of it? It is a dance for Obon season which is normally from the 13th to 16th of August, with the main date being the 15th of August. Traditionally, it is a buddha dance to welcome our ancestors back to this world during Obon season. During the summer festival in August, a stage is set for dancing (please look at the picture above!), and anyone can join in dancing at anytime for free! There are a lot of dancing styles based on each local culture, but one thing in common is its simplicity. That is why everyone is able to dance together, ranging from children to old people. Therefore, if you don’t know how to dance, don’t worry! Just copy someone around you and you will pick it up in no time at all! I have included a video about one of the famous styles of bon dancing below, which is called ‘Tokyo ondo東京音頭’. Practice it if you want! Plus, you should wear a Japanese summer kimono such as Yukata (浴衣) or Jimbei (甚平) because it is a very popular thing to do in Japanese summer!

Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB9z9V2GghQ (Tokyo ondo東京音頭)


Play games at a street shop

There are a lot of different street shops at a summer festival! Street shops for games are very popular, especially for boys. Shown below are the two most popular games to play at a summer festival. You should try them out!


Shooting game (Shateki射的)

This game shop looks dangerous because they use a gun. But, don’t worry, this is a cork gun! There are shelves with lots of toys such as stuffed animals and plastic models. Then you just need to shoot something that you want as your prize. You can get the prize when you shoot it! The price is 500yen with 5 corks in average.


Scooping up superballs (Supaborusukuiスーパーボールすくい)

A superball is a small ball and bouncy ball. They are all very colorful and you can choose the ones that you like. But you have to scoop it from the water with a spoon. It is easy, but you have to follow the rules at each shops! For example, you can only scoop once one! It costs 400yen, but you can keep all superballs you get.


Share the street food with friends/ partner


You will also see lots of street food shops at the festival. Lots of different kinds of food are available such as sweets and meals. The price is around 500 yen for any type of food. As for the following 2 foods, Japanese people eat a lot of this at the summer festival Do you want to taste some?


Yakisoba (焼きそば)

I am sure most of you have already tried Yakisoba, since it is a typical Japanese food! However, the ones made at a summer festival taste a bit different! That is why most of the Japanese people like to eat it at the festival! Try some and see for yourself!


Shaved ice (Kakigoriかき氷)

This has been a traditional Japanese ice cream for some time! You can choose a syrup to put on top of your ice. They prepare lots of different kinds of syrup such as strawberry, peach, blue Hawaii and green apple. I personally always choose the blue Hawaii flavour, even though my tongue turns blue after I eat!


Other than these ideas, there are lots of ways to enjoy a summer festival! So, please go and enjoy it in your own way! I hope you will have a great time, with nice food and events! Japanese summer has just begun, but it will be over soon – so make the most of it!