Nine Lively Japanese Summer Festivals You Can Participate In

Summer in Japan can be sweltering hot, but there is also a lot to look forward to, such as the many summer festivals held across the country from July to September. Since ancient times in Japan, the Obon period in July and August is said to be the time when the ancestors' spirits come back to visit, and various ceremonies are held to honor them. From parading through the town with floats carrying deities and portable shrines to dancing, these ceremonies became more and more energetic and joyful over the years. But seeing is not enough! Take part in the dances, parade floats and chants to really immerse yourself in the festive spirit.

The hot summer season is when the festive spirits of Japan go into full swing, and excitement awaits at festivals across the country. It's also a great opportunity to mingle with the locals, so join in and yell with the crowd! Just be sure to keep yourself hydrated and take measures against heat stroke, and enjoy the heat of summer!

Akita Kanto Festival

Swaying like rice stalks, soaring bamboo poles called “kanto” parade around town to the music of Japanese traditional flutes and drums in this summer Akita tradition. Centered around the 12-meter-tall pole, the luminous world of 10,000 lanterns on 280 bamboo poles, each carrying several dozen lanterns to represent abundant rice harvest of Akita, is a sight to behold. The kanto poles are hoisted by performers called “sashite” who balance the poles using their arms and hips in a thrilling show of strength and skill. The festival's highlight happens at night, when the kanto poles line up as thousands of candle-lit lanterns light up the sky in gold. During the day, the sashite performers compete using their pole-balancing skills, and visitors can also try holding a smaller kanto pole. Experiencing just how hard it is to balance the pole will make watching the actual performance even more awe-inspiring. Cheer on as you thrill in the amazing dexterity of the performers.

Details

Name Akita Kanto Festival
Web Sites http://www.kantou.gr.jp/english/
Location of the Event Areas around Kanto Odori street (Sanno-Jujiro crossing to Nichomebashi crossing) in Akita-shi, Akita
Access Approximately 40 minutes' bus ride from Akita Airport (From Haneda Airport to Akita Airport: 1 hour 5 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 018-832-7941 (Akita City Tourist Board Information Centre)
Period of the Event August 3 to 6 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English Yes, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English Yes, Chinese Yes
System for accepting inquiries for festival English Yes, Chinese No

©YAMAGATA HANAGASA COMMITTEE

Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

In the Yamagata Hanagasa Festival dancers bearing beautiful “hanagasa” flower hats dance along to Hanagasa Ondo music. Together with spirited chants of “Yassho, makasho” accompanied by booming drums, over 10,000 dancers led by a gorgeous float parade for 1.2 kilometers through the center of Yamagata City in a spectacular ensemble. The streets become vibrantly colored with dancers dressed in beautiful costumes and hats adorned with red safflowers. Visitors are also welcome to participate at the tail of the parade in the "walk-in corner," where both locals and tourists come together to enjoy the passionate dance.

Details

Name Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
Web Sites http://www.hanagasa.jp/en/
Location of the Event Center of Yamagata-shi, Yamagata
Access Approximately 1 hour 20 minutes' bus ride from Sendai Airport
Inquiries TEL: 023-642-8753 (Yamagata Prefecture Hanagasa Committee)
Period of the Event August 5 to 7 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English No, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English Yes, Chinese Yes
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

©AWA Odori Executive Committee

Tokushima Awa Odori

Tokushima Awa Odori is one of Japan's biggest festivals, attracting 300,000 dancers and 1.3 million spectators. Around 1,000 dance teams, called “ren”, energetically dance to the live music performance. The festival's long history can be traced back 400 years to a regional bon-odori dance festival. To fully appreciate the perfectly uniform dances and liveliness of the prominent rens, you can take a seat sit down in one of the outside seating galleries. The excitement peaks as several thousand dancers start to move in unison. In addition, there are rens welcoming tourists as well as spontaneous dances around town where anyone can join in. During the day, various stage performances of Awa Odori are also held, highlighting the artistic aspects of the dance. This is an event any lover of traditional performing arts, should not miss!

Details

Name Tokushima Awa Odori
Web Sites https://www.awaodori.tokushima.jp/
Location of the Event Center of Tokushima-shi, Tokushima
Access Approximately 30 minutes by limousine bus from Tokushima Awaodori Airport (From Haneda Airport to Tokushima Awaodori Airport: 1 hour 10 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 088-677-3710 (Awa Odori Management Secretariat)
Period of the Event August 12 to 15 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English Yes, Chinese Yes
Flyers in multiple languages English Yes, Chinese Yes
System for accepting inquiries for festival English Yes, Chinese No

©Hakata Gion Yamakasa for the Promotion of Science

Hakata Gion Yamakasa

This summer festival of Kushida Shrine marks the beginning of the season for Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture, starting with the unveiling of the gorgeously decorated Yamakasa floats on July 1 to the “oiyama”, the races of floats in the early morning hours of July 15. During the period, the huge Yamakasa floats, standing over 10 meters tall, are displayed around various spots across town. Excitement builds toward the final day of July 15, when smaller floats around three meters tall and weighing one ton are used in a time trial race. At 4:59 in the morning, the sound of a drum signals the beginning of oiyama, in which men clothed in festival attire race through the streets of Hakata shouting "Oisa!" as they carry the one-ton floats.

Details

Name Hakata Gion Yamakasa
Web Sites https://www.hakatayamakasa.com/
Location of the Event Kushida Shrine and surrounding areas in Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka
Access Approximately 10 minutes on the Fukuoka City Subway Kuko Line from Fukuoka Airport (From Haneda Airport to Fukuoka Airport: 1 hour 55 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 092-291-2951 (Hakata Gion Yamakasa Promotion Association)
Period of the Event July 1 to 15 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English Yes, Chinese Yes
Flyers in multiple languages English Yes, Chinese Yes
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

Hyuga Hyottoko Summer Festival

Parades of humorous dances roam through the streets of Hyuga in Miyazaki Prefecture during the Hyuga Hyottoko Summer Festival. Dancers wearing Hyottoko and Okame masks and a red kimono with a white belt, as well as dancers dressed as foxes, all come out and entertain the spectators with comical dances. Hyottoko is a man making a funny face with a pout, and Okame is a round-faced woman with a broad forehead and flat nose, both traditional clown masks since ancient times in Japan. The dance depicts a fanciful story, in which Hyottoko and Okame are a married couple, but a deity disguised as a fox tries to seduce the beautiful Okame. The festival rose in popularity over the years, and today it attracts around 2,000 dancers from all over Japan. You can also participate in the parade with prior registration. Explode in laughter in this highly entertaining festival and blow away the summer heat!

Details

Name Hyuga Hyottoko Summer Festival
Web Sites (In Japanese) http://www.hyottoko.jp/
Location of the Event Center of Hyuga-shi, Miyazaki
Access From Miyazaki Airport, approximately 1 hour by the JR Miyazaki Kuko Line and JR Nippo Main Line (From Haneda Airport to Miyazaki Airport: 1 hour 45 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 0982-55-0235 (Hyuga Hyottoko Summer Festival Executive Committee Office)
Period of the Event First Saturday of August
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English Yes, Chinese Yes
Flyers in multiple languages English No, Chinese No
System for accepting inquiries for festival English Yes, Chinese Yes

©Tottori Shanshan festival for the Promotion of Science

Tottori Shan-Shan Festival

Carrying traditional Japanese umbrellas embellished with gold and silver paper and bells, numerous dancers twirl and jingle through the main streets of Tottori in this beautiful festival that attracts 200,000 visitors from around the country. The onomatopoeic name “Shan-shan” comes from the tinkling of the bells attached to the umbrellas, as well as how the hot spring flows plentifully at Tottori Onsen. Kicking off with a pre-party on the night of August 13, the festival is in full swing on August 14 as around 4,000 dancers perform the umbrella dance together and ring the bells. You will marvel at how the dancers skillfully move in tight unison despite the large size of the umbrellas. Visitors also have the opportunity to try the umbrella dance in an experience activity area.

Details

Name Tottori Shan-Shan Festival
Web Sites (In Japanese) http://tottori-shanshan.jp/
Location of the Event Center of Tottori-shi, Tottori Prefecture
Access Approximately 20 minutes' bus ride from Tottori Airport (From Haneda Airport to Tottori Airport: 1 hour 15 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 0857-20-3210 (Tottori Shan-Shan Festival Promotion Committee Office)
Period of the Event August 13 to 15 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English Yes, Chinese Yes
Flyers in multiple languages English No, Chinese No
System for accepting inquiries for festival English Yes, Chinese Yes

©Shimonoseki City

Bakan Festival

Bakan Festival is celebrated at the end of every August in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, the setting of many important episodes in Japanese history. Various history-themed events are held during this time, including the Heike Odori dance and the historic parade. Heike Odori, a dance commemorating the Heike clan which perished in the Battle of Dannoura in Shimonoseki during the 12th century, is the highlight of the event with 4,000 dancers crowding the festival grounds. Anyone is welcome to join in, and the choreography is easy to follow for first-timers as well. Today the festival has grown into the largest in Yamaguchi Prefecture attracting over 400,000 visitors annually.

Details

Name Bakan Festival
Web Sites (In Japanese) http://bakanmatsuri.com/
Location of the Event Center of Shimonoseki-shi, Yamaguchi
Access Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes' bus ride from Yamaguchi Ube Airport (From Haneda Airport to Yamaguchi Ube Airport: 1 hour 40 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 083-231-1350 (Shimonoseki Festival Joint Committee)
Period of the Event Saturday and Sunday in late August
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English No, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English No, Chinese No
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

Kochi Yosakoi Festival

The time of year when Kochi becomes heated with excitement, Kochi Yosakoi Festival is one of Japan's biggest dance festivals. It kicks off every year with a pre-party on August 9, followed by four days of passionate dancing by 200 teams of 20,000 dancers. Yosakoi dance is based on the Kochi folksong Yosakoi-bushi. Performers dressed in colorful costumes dance around holding “naruko” as instruments. Naruko is a tool used to scare away birds since ancient times. Nowadays, in addition to traditional music, many teams incorporate various styles including samba, rock, hip hop, flamenco and hula, and compete in dynamic dances. Spectators get excited as teams with anywhere from a dozen to a hundred dancers dressed in dazzling costumes showcase their highly organized performances. Some teams are open to new members on the day of the festival, and visitors can even join the parade if they attend a workshop beforehand.

Details

Name Kochi Yosakoi Festival
Web Sites (In Japanese) http://www.cciweb.or.jp/kochi/yosakoiweb/
Location of the Event Center of Kochi-shi, Kochi
Access Approximately 30 minutes' bus ride from Kochi Airport (From Haneda Airport to Kochi Airport: 1 hour 25 minutes)
Inquiries TEL: 088-875-1178 (Yosakoi Festival Promotion Committee)
Period of the Event August 9 to 12 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English No, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English No, Chinese No
System for accepting inquiries for festival English No, Chinese No

Aomori Nebuta Festival

Drawing around two million visitors every year, Aomori Nebuta Festival is one of the Tohoku region's largest festivals. Giant lantern floats called “nebuta” parade through town in this spectacular festival, which originally started as a ritual dedicated to the deceased. Around nine meters across and five meters tall, the nebuta floats are designed with historic or mythical themes and surrounded by “haneto” dancers who energetically bounce around. At night, the town becomes wild with excitement as massive nebutas beautifully glow and parade along to the lively sounds of flutes and bells. The real joy of the festival is to participate in the parade as haneto dancers. It's easy to rent a haneto costume and take part on the day of the festival, so join in the chant of “Rassera, rassera”, and dance the night away.

Details

Name Aomori Nebuta Festival
Web Sites https://www.nebuta.or.jp/
Location of the Event Center of Aomori-shi, Aomori
Access Approximately 35 minutes' bus ride from Aomori Airport
Inquiries TEL: 017-734-2500 (Aomori Tourist Information Center)
Period of the Event August 2 to 7 (Held on the same days every year)
Multi-lingual staff at the venue English No, Chinese No
Flyers in multiple languages English Yes, Chinese Yes
System for accepting inquiries for festival English Yes, Chinese Yes

空席照会・予約