Japan’s Amazing Summer Festivals You Need to Check Out
All throughout the summer in Japan almost every town and city across the country puts on its own festival known locally as matsuri. These incredibly lively celebrations are the perfect way to get an insight into Japan's fascinating culture and take part in it yourself. So pull out your yukata, the kimono's casual summer variant, and head on down to these compelling summer festivals.
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Awa Odori Festival
Hailing from Tokushima on the island of Shikoku, Awa Odori is Japan's biggest dance festival and one of the most incredible cultural performances possible to bear witness to in Japan. From 12-15th August in the evening, this sleepy coastal city completely transforms into this incredible, lively street show. Its history dates back to over 400 years ago, with some believing it started in 1586 when the lord of the castle threw a huge party causing everyone to get drunk and start dancing together. While it's highly recommended to visit the original performances in Shikoku, there's also a similar version that's put on in Tokyo's western neighborhood of Koenji, started up by Tokushima locals living in the city.
Where? Tokushima on one of Japan's main islands of Shikoku.
When? 12-15th August.
Japan's most popular summer festival, especially among foreigners, Gion Matsuri is a huge procession that takes place in the historic city of Kyoto. Almost the whole city seems to congregate for this month-long spectacular of music, chanting performances and stunning street floats. It can be a little touristy, but if you'll only have chance to see one summer festival, then Kyoto's incredible matsuri is the perfect representation of these entertaining cultural festivals.
When? The festival lasts for the whole month of July but the main parades are on July 17th and July 24th.
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri
A festival bound to impress and most likely stun you with wonder at the same time, the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is anything but dreary. The event usually consists of over 20 incredibly vivid floats made from traditional 'washi' paper and lit up with lanterns to display their beautiful bright colors. The decorations really are stunning and photos don't do it justice. Known as nebutas, these floats are usually based on various mythical or historical stories often displaying impressive, towering gods or kabuki characters.
Where? In Japan's far northerly city of Aomori.
When? Usually the first week of August.
Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival
While its not nearly as popular as it should be, especially among foreigners, the firework festival at Lake Suwa is one of the biggest in Japan. Almost twice the amount of fireworks as Tokyo's largest firework festival at Sumidagawa, a whopping 40,000 fireworks are set off over the picturesque lake, with the sound echoing around the surrounding mountains. Although you'll find firework displays all over Japan throughout the summer, this is easily one of the most spectacular, and the beautiful backdrop of Lake Suwa and the Japanese Alps just make this incredible event even more breathtaking.
Where? Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture.
When? August 15th.
Not to be outdone by its neighbor of Kyoto, Osaka also puts on a spectacular show each year on July 24th. One of the oldest festivals in Japan, Tenjin Matsuri is said to have started over a thousand years ago. The highlight and unique part of this festival is on the second day when the procession is loaded onto boats and floats down the Okawa River, accompanied by music, dancing and fireworks.
When? July 24th and July 25th.
For those staying in Tokyo during July, make sure not to miss one of the capital's largest festivals, known for its picturesque rows of yellow lanterns. Mitama Matsuri has the makings of any grand Japanese festival with a delicious spread of food stalls, music and dancing accompanied with processions of shrines.
Where? Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
When? July 13th to July 15th.
Summertime is one of the best seasons to visit Japan, namely because of the vibrant cultural displays performed all across the country. There's probably around a hundred or more of these iconic events just in Tokyo. Some of them such as the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri are worth making the long journey there just to see the festival alone, the incredible displays and shows make for some amazing memories, best of all you can often take part in the performances yourself.