Summer in Japan
Summer in Japan is from June to August. It’s the season of grand fireworks displays, called hanabi taikai. Almost every weekend, communities around Japan stage lively firework displays colourfully enlivening the night skies. Summer throughout Japan culminates with large scale festivals, many with folk dancing and food stalls, as well as Bon Odori dance meetings for the recreation of local residents, friends and visitors.
See below for an introduction to some of Japan’s most popular summer festivals and events.
Tokyo & Vicinity
Summer purification rites, various shrines in Kanagawa (Late June)
Ceremonies and rituals will be held at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (Kamakura), Enoshima Shrine (Enoshima), Samukawa Shrine (Samukawa) and Hakone Shrine (Hakone) to rid the impurities of the past 6 months.
Yokohama International Fireworks, Yamashita Park, Yokohama (Mid-July)
The International Fireworks Display, which is held every July on the Sunday before Marine Day, is the finale of the “Opening of the Port Festival”. It is also a poetic way of announcing summer’s arrival to the Port of Yokohama. The fireworks display, with over 6,000 fireworks launched from the waters just offshore from Yamashita Park, draws more people than any other event of the year in the Yokohama area.
Sumida River Fireworks Festival, Tokyo (Late July)
Twenty thousand sets of fireworks will light up the Tokyo summer sky. The festival also includes a fireworks competition. [ Official site ]
Tokyo Bay Grand Fireworks Festival, Harumi Futo Pier, Tokyo (Mid August)
Twelve thousand rounds of fireworks light up the Tokyo summer sky.
Koenji Awaodori Festival, Tokyo (Late August)
JR Koenji Station area, Tokyo Japan’s second largest Awaodori Festival. Now in its 53rd year, the Koenji dance festival attracts around 1.2 million spectators who turn out to watch 12,000 participants from 188 teams dance to uplifting music and rhythms in the streets of Tokyo’s Koenji. [ Learn nore ]
Grand Sumo Tournament
Kokugikan Sumo Hall, Tokyo (Mid-September) [ Read more ]
Gion Festival, Kyoto (July 1-31)
This month long celebration is one of Kyoto’s three biggest festivals. The highlights of the festival are the ‘Yoiyama’ on July 16 in which local residents open the doors to the public to show their treasured art collections, and ‘Yamaboko-Junko’ float parade on July 17. [ Read more ]
Tenjin Festival, Tenman Shrine, Osaka (July 24-25)
Dating back more than 1000 years, the Tenjin Festival is not only one of Japan’s three greatest festivals but also one of the world’s greatest boat festivals.
Sumiyoshi Festival, Osaka (July 1-31)
Osaka’s final summer festival for the season. The festival’s Nagoshi Shinto purification ritual in which beautifully dressed ladies and children walk through a large thatched ring to purify themselves and wish for good health, is a designated intangible cultural asset. The general public also has the opportunity to walk through the thatched ring. After the ceremony, two dances – Kumanomai and Sumiyoshiodori are performed. The thatched ring is placed at the Sumiyoshi Shrine gate until the festival ends on the evening of August 1.
Daimonji Gozan Fire Festival, Kyoto (Mid August)
As part of Kyoto’s August Obon festivities, fires in the shape of large Chinese characters (kanji) are lit in five locations on the mountains surrounding Kyoto City.
Moon viewing ceremony, Daikaku Temple, Kyoto (Mid September)
Osawa no ike (pond) is one of Japan’s most popular moon viewing spots. The moon viewing ceremony dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185). A dragon-headed boat and bird-headed boat glide through the water, accompanied by the sound of koto music.
Nakafurano Lavender Festival, Hokkaido (July)
The Mt. Hokusei Ski Area Lavender Park in Nakafurano hosts one of the biggest lavender festivals of the flower season when the lavender and flowers are in their most beautiful state. The farms come alive with stalls and children’s entertainment shows, not to mention fireworks at night, making this the perfect time to visit Furano and experience the festivals. Simple and affordable access to and fromthe festival / flower farms is available. [ Read more ]
• Admission: Free
Bellybutton Festival, Furano, Hokkaido (July 28-29)
Furano’s Bellybutton Festival draws people from both Japan and overseas, with more than 5,000 people participating in the two dance bellybutton dance festival, and tens of thousands more gathering to watch last year. It is held rain or shine! [ Read more ]
Hakata Gion Yamakasa, Kushida Shrine, Fukuoka (July 1-15)
With a history of more than 750 years, Hakata Gion Yamakasa is the annual summer festival held by Kushida Shrine. The highlight of the festival is the yamakasa (portable shrine) race through the streets of Hakata in the early hours of the morning on July 15. Teams carry the 1 tonne yamakasa along a 5km course at full speed in a bid to complete the course in the fastest time. [ Read more]
Gujo Odori Festival, Gujohachiman City, Gifu (July 9 – Sept 3)
One of the three most traditional dance festivals in Japan. Dating back 400 years, it has been designated a significant intangible folk cultural asset. For 31 festive nights, thousands of people dance the traditional dances in the streets. For four nights in mid–August, during Obon, the dancing goes on all night! [ Read more ]
Grand Sumo Tournament
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Nagoya (Mid-July) [ Read more ]
Kanto Festival, Akita (Early August)
One of the three main festivals in the Tohoku region. Kanto – long bamboo poles with paper lanterns attached are paraded through the streets by the youths dressed in short jackets, hachimaki (headbands), white tabi (socks) and zori (straw sandals).
Awa Odori Folk Dance Festival, Tokushima (July 11 – Sept 5)
This festival features folkdances performed to welcome the souls of ancestors in the Bon season, from July to August. The Awa-Odori is characterised by irregular steps and by the jovial and energetic up-tempo rhythm. The dancers parade through the city while dancing to music played on drums, gongs used when praying to Buddha and at festivals, three-stringed Japanese musical instruments, and flutes.