Summer in Japan is exciting and magical as the country is enveloped in an array of colors and boisterous sounds. With summertime matsuri or festivals held in virtually every neighborhood throughout the country, the Japanese delight in enjoying themselves absorbed in games, music and traditional dance. Colorful yukata or cotton robes with brilliant patterns are the order of the day and it is a delight to witness a collage of colors as people partake in and enjoy the festivities. No matsuri is complete without fireworks and the scene of yukata-clad onlookers watching in eager anticipation as the night sky is lit up with brilliant colors is beautiful to behold. Matsuri are a feast not only for the eyes but also for the palette. From carnival type food such as snow cones, cotton candy and candied apples that would make any youngster happy to delicious local specialties such as grilled yakitori or chicken and yakisoba or pan-fried noodles, matsuri offer a multitude of tasty treats that are a delight to try.
Some of the more famous summer festivals in Japan are Sendai's Tanabata Matsuri (huge decorations festoon the shopping arcades and main streets), Kyoto's Gion Matsuri (famous for its thirty-one lavishly decorated floats), Aomori's Nebuta Matsuri (huge, illuminated paper floats shaped like Kabuki warriors battling mythical monsters) and Tokushima's Awa Odori (tens of thousands of dancers dancing to the sound of shamisen and clanging gongs). While these festivities are attended by thousands of people, the vast majority of matsuri are local affairs. That is not to say however that the festivals are only for the enjoyment of the local population. The Japanese are among the most welcoming people on earth and as a visitor, one should not be surprised in the least to be invited to join in the festivities just as if you were part of the neighborhood. Let JapanQuest Journeys introduce you to the thrills and joy of Japan's festivals as they continue for the remainder of the summer through yearend. Enjoy Japan up close as a local would. Don't miss the Hachiman Matsuri during early October in one of our absolutely favorite spots, quintessential Takayama, nestled in the Japanese Alps! Philip Rosenfeld