It's Matsuri Time! Fantastic Summer Festivals and Fireworks in Japan.

Summer is the season for festivals (Matsuri) throughout Japan. Nothing beats the excitement of being at a festival and soaking up energy from the crowds. Summer festivals are the best way to learn about local traditional culture even if you are limited in your Japanese language skills! Enjoy seeing people dressed up in “yukata”, a casual summer kimono. Try the food stalls and play festival games like scooping goldfish from a water tank. Enjoy fabulous firework displays, chanting and dancing to the beating drums. No doubt these will make your summer special and unforgettable. Embrace the festivals to discover Japan through Matsuri!

See below for an introduction to some of Japan's most popular summer festivals and fireworks.

 

Miyajima Water Fireworks Display  (Miyajima, Hiroshima)  Late August

©JNTO

 

Launched from boats off Miyajima's north shore, about 200 fireworks from the festival's total of 5,000 are launched directly behind the torii gate of the Itsukushima Shrine, which is the central point of the show. The fireworks can also be seen from special sightseeing boat tours circling the bay. The fireworks theme changes annually, but it never fails to enchant and impress the hundreds of thousands of on-lookers who gather on Miyajima as well as on the nearby shore of Hiroshima. If the tide is low enough, you can walk directly up to the front of the shrine, which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For more information, please visit here.

 

Omagari National Fireworks Competition (Akita)  Late August

©Omagari Entrepreneurs Group

 

The only fireworks display competition held while it is still light outside is in Omagari, Akita and is considered the most prestigious competition by fireworks experts. The firework artisans compete in shooting off their own crafted fireworks, and government awards are presented to the winner. Held annually in August, the themes are predetermined, often with accompanying music, and the originality of the displays are testimonies to the creativity and artistic sensibility of each fireworks creator. There is a bountiful array of food and beverage stalls.

For more information, please visit here.

 

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri Festivals (Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture)  Early August

©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

 

Enjoy the world's most elegant festival of paper and bamboo. The Tanabata festival is known as the star festival, originating from Chinese folklore depicting the two stars of Vega and Altair that crossed paths. Usually Tanabata is celebrated on July 7th every year across Japan. The Sendai Tanabata Festival is one of the most famous Tanabata festivals in Japan with more than two million visitors every year. The festival is held in August in accordance with the lunar calendar which was used until about 150 years ago. Gorgeous and colossal decorations made with bamboo and Japanese colored paper are put up in the center of the city and main shopping arcades. There are also simple traditional bamboo decorations, called Sasatake. Sasatake is sometimes called a “wish tree” where people can write their wishes on striped, colored paper and tie them to their branches in hope they will come true. There is a bountiful array of food and beverage stalls including local delicious cuisine available with music and entertainment. A fireworks display is held the night before the festival with approximately 16,000 explosions lighting up the sky of Sendai city.

For more information, visit here.

 

Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori city, Aomori prefecture)  Early August

©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

 

Experience Nebuta, a sensational and impressive festival full of color. Nebuta means a float depicting a brave warrior figure, usually after Japanese historical characters. There are other Nebuta festivals in other cities, but this Aomori festival attracts the most visitors, over 3 million people each year and has been selected as one of Japan's significant intangible cultural assets. It is ranked as one of the three largest festivals in the Tohoku area. About 20 Nebuta figures parade through in the dark of the city's streets. Nebuta is made of beautifully illustrated Japanese paper formed into 3 dimensional floats, illuminated from the inside. The size of each Nebuta is about 16 feet high & 30 feet wide. About 1,000 light bulbs are used for each Nebuta. Loud chanting during the procession, accompanied by traditional musicians and dancers called “haneto” add to the dazzling atmosphere. Tourists are always welcome to join and must wear traditional costumes which can be bought or rented locally.

For more information, visit here.

 

Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri Festival  (Okinawa)  Late August

©JNTO

 

Feel the beat of Okinawa drums. Fly down to the resort island of Okinawa where you can still experience a unique traditional dance festival. Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture has a unique culture. In fact, Okinawa offers a blend of cultures quite different from the rest of Japan. Eisa is a traditional dance in Okinawa and offers several dancing styles with the major style today featuring dancing with large barrel drums and medium sized drums. Typically you will see the boy and girl's hand dancers that follow the drum players beat. Along the processions, great singing can be heard of traditional folk songs and the playing of Okinawa jyamisen (traditional three string instrument). The unique rhythms and movements of Eisa are accompanied by the melodic drum sounds and energetic dances that display techniques allowing dancers to use their whole body. The highlight of the festival is Eisa itself. Anyone who witness the Eisa dance will most certainly be deeply touched as it promotes heart stirring excitement. This excitement is expressed as “Chimu-Don-Don” in local traditional language.

For more information, please visit here.

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