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10 Summer Festivals in Japan You Don’t Want to Miss—2022 version

Culture

UpdateJuly 21, 2022
ReleaseJune 22, 2022

What are summer festivals?

Japanese summers are known for their many matsuri, or festivals. Every year from July to September, unique summer festivals teeming with excitement are held all over Japan. Each has its own distinctive origins, such as driving away typhoons or pests that hinder good harvests and warding off plague and evil spirits. Festivals have passed down throughout history, ever-infused with prayers for peaceful prosperity and thoughts of our ancestors.

How to enjoy summer festivals

To fully immerse yourself in the matsuri experience, we recommend wearing a yukata (light, cotton kimono). Yukata adorned with exquisite colors and patterns will surely boost your spirit for the festivities. In tourist areas, you’ll find many shops offering yukata rental and fitting services that you can utilize for a casual, stress-free experience. These shops are expected to be crowded on festival days, so we suggest making a reservation in advance.

Colorful yukata
Colorful yukata


Popular summer festival foods

Many summer festivals offer an array of food stands where you can try all the best festival delicacies. With savory treats like takoyaki (octopus balls), yakisoba (stir-fried noodles), and grilled corn-on-the-cob to sweets like chocolate-covered bananas, shaved ice, and candied apples, you certainly won’t go hungry. Indulge in as many food stand treats as you like while immersing yourself in the festival atmosphere.
An array of food stands
An array of food stands

Grilled corn-on-the-cob
Grilled corn-on-the-cob


10 Summer Festivals Symbolizing Japanese Summers

*Festival content may be subject to change or cancellation

1. Aomori Nebuta Festival (Aomori Prefecture)

Dubbed one of Tohoku’s Three Great Festivals, this festival attracts over 2.2 million visitors every year. Dancers called “haneto” dance surrounding “nebuta” (immense, human-shaped lantern floats) with shouts and parade the streets, which looks dynamic and energetic. You can even rent out a costume and participate in the event as one of the haneto.
Nebuta
Nebuta

Haneto
Haneto

Event date: August 2–7, 2022 (Same schedule each year)
Location: Central Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
Official website: https://www.nebuta.jp/

2. Sendai Tanabata Festival (Miyagi Prefecture)

This festival is another one of Tohoku’s Three Great Festivals. While Tanabata is celebrated on July 7, the Sendai Tanabata Festival is held from August 6 to 8, with the middle day of the festival falling exactly a month after July 7, according to the traditional lunar calendar. Tanabata decorations made from traditional washi paper will fill the entire city. Every year, over two million visitors come to see and enjoy of these kaleidoscopic ornamentations.
七夕飾り Tanabata decorations
Tanabata decorations

Event date: August 6–8, 2022 (Same schedule each year)
Location: Central Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture
Official website:https://www.sendaitanabata.com/

3. Akita Kanto Festival (Akita Prefecture)

The third of Tohoku’s Three Great Festivals, the Akita Kanto Festival is a parading spectacle of lanterns resembling ears of rice, a procession that expresses the earnest hope for a bountiful harvest and wards off of evil spirits. The biggest bundle of lanterns is called “Owaka,” reaching as high as 12 meters and boasting 46 lanterns weighing up to as much as 50 kilograms. You won’t want to miss the performers expertly maneuvering the enormous poles, impeccably balancing them on their hands, foreheads, shoulders, and hips.
Kanto lanterns
Kanto lanterns

Event date: August 3–6, 2022 (Same schedule each year)
Location: Around Kanto-Odori Street, Akita City, Akita Prefecture (Between the Sanno Jujiro Crossroads and Nichomebashi Bridge)
Official website:https://www.kantou.gr.jp/

4. Fukagawa Hachiman Festival (Tokyo)

Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine’s “Fukagawa Hachiman Festival,” held annually around August 15, is regarded as one of the Three Great Festivals of Edo (old Tokyo). During the “Hon Matsuri” (main festival) held every three years, 53 large portable shrines called mikoshi are carried throughout the town. The festival is also known as “Mizukake Festival,” or water-throwing festival, as spectators throw water for purification onto the mikoshi bearers, creating excitement all together.
Mizukake Festival
Mizukake Festival

Event date: August 2022 (The next Hon Matsuri is scheduled for 2023)
Location: Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine, Koto-ku , Tokyo
Official website: http://www.tomiokahachimangu.or.jp/htmls/maturih1.html

5. Gion Matsuri (Kyoto)

Over a thousand years old, the Gion Matsuri hosts a month of various festivities at Kyoto’s Yasaka Shrine from July 1 to 31. Among them, the “Yamahoko Junko” float processions on July 17 (first procession) and July 24 (second procession) are a must-see. You’ll witness over thirty dazzling Yamahoko floats weighing up to 12 tons parade around the city of Kyoto.
Yamahoko float procession
Yamahoko float procession

Event date: July 1–31, 2022 (Same schedule each year)
Location: Central Kyoto City, Kyoto
Official website:http://www.gionmatsuri.or.jp/

6. Tenjin Matsuri (Osaka)

The Tenjin Matsuri is a festival held at Tenmangu shrines throughout Japan, but Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri is one of Japan’s largest and most prominent. July 25, the festival’s final day, features a land procession called “rikutogyo” consisting of roughly 3,000 people, followed by a boat procession called “funatogyo” made up of about 100 boats crossing the waters. Fireworks dedicated to the shrine are shot up into the air, illuminating the sky of Osaka.
Tenjin Matsuri processions
Tenjin Matsuri processions

Tenjin Matsuri fireworks
Tenjin Matsuri fireworks

Event date: Late June—July 25, 2022
Location: Central Osaka City, Osaka
Official website:https://www.tenjinmatsuri.com/

7. Tokushima City Awa Odori (Tokushima Prefecture)

Awa Odori is a traditional dance originating in Tokushima Prefecture centuries ago and now enjoyed in various regions throughout Japan. As the birthplace of the festival, Tokushima City’s Awa Odori attracts over a million visitors from around Japan and abroad. During the period of time of the festival, the city center is full of a festival spirit. If you want to dance for yourself, join “niwaka-ren,” groups which allows drop-in participation!
Awa Odori
Awa Odori

Event date: August 12–15, 2022 (Same schedule each year)
Location: Central Tokushima City, Tokushima Prefecture
Official website: https://www.awanavi.jp/site/midokoro/awaodori.html

8. Yosakoi Matsuri (Kochi Prefecture)

Yosakoi Matsuri kicks off on August 9 with Zenyasai (pre-festival) every year. It is one of Japan’s largest dance festivals. About 18,000 dancers from 200-some teams dance while sounding naruko clappers in their hands at 16 venues in the city of Kochi for four days. You won’t want to miss the original, unique costumes, music, and well-choreographed performances of each team.
Yosakoi Matsuri parade
Yosakoi Matsuri parade

Event date: August 9–12, 2022 (Same schedule each year)
Location: Central Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture
Official website:http://www.cciweb.or.jp/kochi/yosakoiweb/

9. Hakata Gion Yamakasa (Fukuoka Prefecture)

This festival is a ritual dedicated to Kushida Shrine held annually from July 1 to 15 and has a 700-year history. During the festival, large decorative “kazari yamakasa” floats are displayed at a dozen or so places in Fukuoka City. In “Oi Yamakasa” race, the festival finale, a total of eight teams carry their yamakasa floats and run for the race through the city one by one. You’ll feel the raw energy of men known as “kakite,” who run while carrying the very large and heavy floats.
Yamakasa
Yamakasa

Event date: July 1–15, 2022 (Same schedule each year)
Location: Kushida Shrine and surrounding areas, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Official website: https://www.hakatayamakasa.com/

10. Yamaga Garden Lantern Festival (Kumamoto Prefecture)

In this festival, the hot spring town is alight with the colors of “Yamaga lanterns,” the traditional craft of Yamaga made only with washi paper and glue. Particularly astounding is the sight of 1,000 women in yukata bearing lanterns on their heads, dancing the “Sennin Toro Odori,” or “Thousand Lantern Dance.” Rings of lantern lights of the dancers invite spectators into a fantastical world.
Sennin Toro Odori (Thousand Lantern Dance)
Sennin Toro Odori (Thousand Lantern Dance)

Event date: August 15–16, 2022
Location: Central Yamaga City, Kumamoto Prefecture
Official website:https://yamaga-tanbou.jp/about/toromatsuri/

Did you find any festivals you’d like to see? Make unforgettable memories at summer festivals in Japan!


*The information herein is as of May 2022.

writerMai

I was born in Kagoshima Prefecture and have lived in different parts of Kyushu. A lover of food, sake, and hot springs in Kyushu, my goal is to become a “Sen-nin” (hot spring master), the highest rank for those who accomplish the “Tour of the Eighty-eight Hot Springs in Kyushu.” I hope to convey the fascinating aspects of Japan while featuring my beloved homeland Kyushu!


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