Akita Kanto Matsuri

Japan is a country rich in culture, traditions, and festivals, and the summer season is the perfect time to experience some of its most vibrant and exciting events. From fireworks displays to illuminated floats, lively dances, and colorful processions, summer festivals in Japan offer a unique glimpse into the country’s history, art, and folklore. Let’s explore ten of the most spectacular summer festivals in Japan and learn about the cultural significance of each event.

Japanese Summer Festivals in Kanto

The Kanto region in Japan is renowned for its sultry summers, yet that doesn’t stop locals from enjoying this exciting season. In the summer months, the streets resound with the melodies of traditional Japanese music, while the sweet aromas of festival cuisine waft through the air. From the animated city streets of Tokyo to the placid countryside of Tochigi, the Kanto region showcases an eclectic array of summer festivals that enable tourists to experience Japan’s deep cultural heritage and thunderous spectacles.

Kanto Summer Festival: Sumida River Fireworks Festival in Tokyo

Sumida River Fireworks Festival

The Sumida River Fireworks Festival is one of the largest and most popular summer events in Tokyo, Japan. Held annually in late July, the festival attracts over a million visitors who gather along the Sumida River to watch the spectacular fireworks.

The breathtaking display is choreographed to music and lasts for approximately 90 minutes, making it one of the longest and most impressive fireworks shows in the world. Visitors can also enjoy a range of street food, live music performances, and traditional Japanese cultural activities throughout the evening. The Sumida River Fireworks Festival is a must-see event for anyone visiting Tokyo during the summer months.

When: Late July

Where: Asakusa, Tokyo

Kanto Summer Festival: Kiryu Yagibushi Festival in Gunma

The Kiryu Yagibushi Festival

The Kiryu Yagibushi Festival is a vibrant and exciting event that takes place every year in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture. The festival is named after the local Yagibushi dance, which is a traditional folk dance that has been passed down through generations in the area. During the festival, the streets of Kiryu City come alive with the sounds of taiko drums, flutes, and other traditional instruments as dancers in colorful costumes perform the Yagibushi dance.

Visitors can join in the fun and learn the dance, or simply enjoy the lively atmosphere and delicious festival food. The Kiryu Yagibushi Festival is a wonderful way to experience the rich culture and traditions of Gunma Prefecture and is a must-see for anyone visiting the region during the summer months.

When: First Week of August

Where: Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture

HP: https://gunma-kanko.jp/

Japanese Summer Festivals in Kansai

The Kansai region of Japan is known for its hot and humid summers, but it’s also a season of vibrant festivals and lively celebrations. During this time, the streets and parks are filled with people wearing traditional yukatas and enjoying the festive atmosphere. The aroma of delicious street food wafts through the air, while the sounds of taiko drums and lively music fill the streets. From Kyoto to Osaka, the Kansai region offers a variety of unique summer festivals that showcase the region’s rich cultural heritage and provide a perfect opportunity for travelers to experience the local customs and traditions.

Kansai Summer Festival: Gion Matsuri in Kyoto

The Gion Matsuri in Kyoto

The Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is one of the most iconic festivals in Japan, featuring a month-long celebration of traditional culture and customs. The festival originated in the 9th century as a purification ritual to ward off a plague that was affecting the city. Today, the festival features numerous events, including parades of elaborately decorated floats, traditional Japanese performances, and ceremonies at the Yasaka Shrine.

The highlight of the festival is the Yamaboko Junko parade, where colorful floats, some of them weighing over 12 tons, are pulled through the streets by teams of men dressed in traditional garb. The Gion Matsuri is a truly immersive experience that provides a glimpse into the ancient traditions of Kyoto and attracts visitors from all over the world.

When: July

Where: Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

Kansai Summer Festival: Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka

The Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka

The Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka is one of the largest and most exciting festivals in Japan, with a history dating back over 1,000 years. The festival takes place every July and is dedicated to the patron saint of learning and scholarship, Sugawara no Michizane. The highlight of the festival is a procession of boats that travel along the Okawa River, accompanied by fireworks, music, and dancing.

The boats are elaborately decorated with lanterns and carry portable shrines, or mikoshi, which are believed to be the homes of the gods. The festival also features a parade of participants dressed in traditional costumes, as well as street food vendors and other festivities. The Tenjin Matsuri is a unique and exhilarating event that showcases the vibrant culture of Osaka and draws crowds of both locals and tourists alike.

When: Late July

Where: Osaka, Osaka Prefecture

Japanese Summer Festivals in Tohoku

The Tohoku region of Japan is known for its cooler climate, making it a popular destination during the hot and humid summer months. Despite the milder temperatures, the region still boasts a lively and festive atmosphere during the summer season. Visitors can experience a variety of traditional festivals, including the Nebuta Festival in Aomori and the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri in Miyagi. The streets are filled with colorful decorations, lively music, and delicious festival foods. The Tohoku region’s natural beauty also provides a picturesque backdrop for many of the summer festivals, making it a perfect destination for those seeking both cultural and outdoor experiences.

Tohoku Summer Festival: Kanto Matsuri in Akita

Akita Kanto Matsuri

The Kanto Matsuri is one of the most spectacular festivals in Japan, celebrated annually in Akita Prefecture. Held every August, the festival is a stunning display of traditional Japanese culture and a must-see for anyone visiting the region. During the festival, participants carry towering bamboo poles, called kanto, adorned with rows of lanterns that illuminate the night sky in a mesmerizing display.

The festival has its roots in the Edo period and is said to have originated as a way to pray for a bountiful harvest. Today, the Kanto Matsuri is a symbol of Akita’s cultural heritage and draws visitors from across Japan and around the world. The highlight of the festival is the Kanto Odori, a procession where skilled performers balance the kanto poles on their foreheads, shoulders, and hips, showcasing their impressive strength and agility. The atmosphere is electric as the performers move in unison, and the lanterns sway in the breeze, creating an unforgettable visual spectacle.

When: Early August

Where: Akita, Akita Prefecture

Tohoku Summer Festival: Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori

Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori

The Nebuta Matsuri is a vibrant and exhilarating festival held annually in Aomori, Japan. The festival is one of the largest and most well-known in Japan, attracting visitors from all over the country and beyond. During the festival, giant illuminated floats, called nebuta, are paraded through the streets of Aomori, accompanied by traditional music and dance performances.

The origins of the festival are thought to date back to the 8th century, when it was believed that the bright lights of the nebuta could ward off evil spirits. Today, the Nebuta Matsuri is a celebration of Japanese culture and folklore, with each float depicting scenes from ancient legends and myths. The floats themselves are truly impressive, towering over spectators and adorned with intricate designs and bright colors.

When: Early August

Where: Aomori, Aomori Prefecture

Tohoku Summer Festival: Sendai Tanabata Matsuri in Miyagi

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri

Tanabata is a colorful summer festival based on Japanese folklore about star-crossed lovers who are only allowed to meet once a year. One of the most popular tanabata celebrations in Japan is the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri which takes place annually from August 6 – 8. It is so spectacular that it is considered one of the three great festivals of the Tohoku region.

The festivities of the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri spread throughout downtown Sendai, but the highlight of the event is the thousands of vibrant streamers made from Japanese washi paper that fill the city’s shopping arcades, creating a forest of colors as the decorations sway in the wind. The handmade streamers made by locals are mean to represent wishes.

When: August 6 – 8

Where: Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture

Japanese Summer Festivals in Southern Japan

Kyushu and Shikoku, two of Japan’s southern islands, are known for their vibrant and lively summer atmosphere, which is amplified by the many seasonal festivals that take place during this time like the colorful Yosakoi dance festivals. Visitors can also enjoy local delicacies such as Hakata ramen in Fukuoka and sanuki udon in Kagawa while soaking up the festive atmosphere. The summer season in Kyushu and Shikoku is a wonderful time to experience the unique culture and traditions of these two beautiful islands.

Shikoku Summer Festival: Awa Odori in Tokushima

Awa Odori in Tokushima

The Awa Odori is a traditional dance festival held annually in Tokushima, Japan, during the Obon season in mid-August. The festival is known for its energetic and colorful performances, with groups of dancers parading through the streets wearing traditional clothing. The dance itself is characterized by its unique footwork and rhythmic chanting. Some origin stories of the dance call it a “fool’s dance” and say it started by groups of locals drunkenly dancing.

As night falls in Tokushima, the city center transforms into a massive dance floor, with several outdoor stages scattered throughout. In addition to the dancing, festival-goers can enjoy a variety of food and game stalls scattered throughout the area. The lively and vibrant atmosphere of the Awa Odori festival is not to be missed, with something to offer for everyone.

When: Mid-August

Where: Tokushima, Tokushima Prefecture

Kyushu Summer Festival: Hakata Gion Yamakasa in Fukuoka

The Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival in Fukuoka

The Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival in Fukuoka is a remarkable display of traditional Japanese culture, showcasing two different types of floats. The larger kazariyama floats, standing over ten meters tall and weighing more than two tons, are used only for decoration. Fourteen of these stunning floats are spread across the city, including two at Hakata Station and Canal City Hakata. Smaller-sized kakiyama floats are used for a race event and measure about five meters tall. These floats are wheelless and dragged through the streets as water is spread in front to reduce friction between the float and the road surface.

When: July

Where: Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture

Japanese Summer Festivals in Hokkaido

Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, offers a refreshing summer atmosphere with its cooler temperatures, picturesque landscapes, and lively festivals. Visitors can experience the beauty of the island’s lavender fields in Furano or take a trip to the refreshing waters of Lake Shikotsu.

From the popular Yosakoi Soran Festival to the lesser-known Biei Lavender Festival, Hokkaido has no shortage of exciting summer events. With its scenic beauty and festive atmosphere, Hokkaido is the perfect destination for a summer getaway in Japan.

Hokkaido Summer Festival: Sapporo Yosakoi Soran Festival

The Sapporo Yosakoi Soran Festival

The Sapporo Yosakoi Soran Festival is a lively and colorful event that takes place in Sapporo, Hokkaido every year in June. The festival features over hundreds of dance teams, each with their own unique costumes and choreography. The dances incorporate traditional Japanese dance moves with modern music, creating a fun and energetic atmosphere. The highlight of the festival is the grand parade, where all of the dance teams come together to perform in the streets of Sapporo.

When: June

Where: Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture