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It's Matsuri Time! Fantastic Summer Festivals 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 with Japanese language! 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 dance with drum's beating. No doubt these will make your summer so 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.

Tenjin Matsuri Festival (Osaka) End of July

Tenjin

Be a part of the top festival in the water metropolis of Osaka. The Tenjin Festival, having over a 1,000 year history, is rated as one of the top three festivals in Japan and is considered as the world’s greatest boat festival. About 1.3 million people visit the festival every year to be a part of this sensational atmosphere with its distinctive Osaka flavor. Land processionals start from the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine. The parade of some 3,000 people dressed in the colorful 8th-12th century imperial cloths carry portable shrines. Before the sun sets, the same 3,000 people move to the Okawa River to continue on to the boat processional with over 100 boats lit up with fire. Without a doubt the highlight of the festival is to enjoy the true spectacular of the firework displays at the Okawa River. Approximately 4,000 fireworks will light up the sky of Osaka. Enjoy the harmony with lantern lights on the boats reflecting off the surface of the river and the almighty firework display. Don’t forget to learn Osaka style hand clapping to be a part of the closing performance when those 3,000 people return to the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine. Soak up and enjoy the typical Osaka style atmosphere!

For more information, please visit here.

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

Sendai Tanabata

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 cerebrated 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 "wish tree" where people can write their wishes on striped, colored paper and tie them to the 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 will be held the night before the festival with of approximately 16,000 explosions lighting up the sky of Sendai city.

For more information, visit here.

Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori city, Aomori prefecture) Early August

Aomori Nebuta

Experience Nebuta, a sensational and impressive colorful festival. 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 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 and 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.

Morioka Sansa Odori Festival (Morioka, Iwate Prefecture) Early August


Sensa Odori

Dance with the world's biggest drum parade. Morioka Sansa Odori is a very traditional Japanese dance festival having its history dating back to the Edo period. Sansa Odori (dance) originates from Mitsuishi Legend. A Long time ago a demon was terrorizing Morioka and the local people. The demon was caught and he left his handprint on the rocks located at the Mitsuishi shrine to promise he will not cause trouble again. Local people were so pleased, they danced around the rock, shouting "Sansa Sansa" which is said to be the beginning of Sansa Odori. In 2014, the people from Morioka attempted the world record for Japanese drums concurrent performance and it was officially recognized by Guinness World Records Ltd as the largest in the world. The festival welcomes you to join the dance. A dancing instructor gesture can teach you how to dance. Cast off your reservations and jump in the day’s parade!

For more information, please visit here.

Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri Festival (Okinawa) Late August

Okinawa Zento Eisa

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 a variety of cultures quite different from the rest of Japan. Eisa is a traditional dance in Okinawa and it has several dancing styles but the major style today is 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 strings 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, visit here.

Be Fascinated by Japan's Spectacular Fall Festivals

When the peak of heat and humidity of the summer subsides in Japan, the season of fall calls for a celebration like the harvest festivals. Spectacular processions, massive floats and traditional customs passed over generations will be portrayed. Wherever you go you will be fascinated by Japanese traditions as well as enjoying the colors of change and delicious delicacies associated with the fall season.

Here are a few of the most popular autumn festivals. Each one distinct in their own special way.

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri (Osaka) Mid September

Danjiri

Feel the extremely powerful atmosphere. Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri, the "float-pulling festival" can be one of the most thrilling festivals in Japan. With almost 300 years of history, it is held every autumn in Osaka’s Kishiwada city. The festival depicts the soul and personality of the Kishiwada locals and they proudly devote their life to the festival. Danjiri are portable floats which are elaborately hand carved wooden structures weighing about 4 tons each. 35 floats are pulled and rushed through narrow streets one after another at recklessly high speeds. The biggest highlight is "Yarimawashi," Danjiri turning at an intersection. Just before the turn, they are accelerated to human running speed, causing an instant skidding of the Danjiri of up to 90 degrees. The night procession is calmer with bright red lanterns lit up on Danjiri where a slow, regal procession takes place along the main parade route. Those who enjoyed the daytime festival now get a chance to enjoy a completely different atmosphere of the night time Danjiri.

For more information, please visit here.


Takayama Akimatsuri Autumn Festival (Takayama city, Gifu Prefecture) Early October

Takayama Akimatsuri

Be fascinated by one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan. The Takayama Festival consists of two seasons, Spring and Autumn festivals are both held annually. The lively attraction of the festival features eleven huge festival floats, constructed and decorated with gorgeous, intricate metal work and gilded wood. Several floats have the inside topped with large wooden marionettes, beautifully decorated with fabric. During the day time, the marionettes are pulled out from the floats and incredible performances can be seen dedicated to gods. The night procession is the main highlight of the festival when the floats are covered with hundreds of lanterns and feature traditional music. Despite their grand size, they seem to float gently in the pools of lantern light, appearing much larger in the dark. Enjoy the contrast of darkness and lantern lights.

For more information, please visit here.


Kyoto Jidai Matsuri (Kyoto Prefecture) Late October

Jidai matsuri

Slip back in time to Kyoto’s long history. Kyoto Jidai Matsuri was first held on October 22, 1895 to celebrate the 1100 year anniversary of the Emperor entering Kyoto in 794 and establishing the capital city of Japan. Since then the festival is held every year on October 22 to celebrate Kyoto’s birthday. This festival of the Age is a fantastic way to see history in a massive live parade with about 2,000 people. They are dressed in period costumes and accessories which represent each era of Kyoto's long history. Approximately 12,000 items of Costumes, ornaments and ritual equipment are precisely reproduced with Kyoto's traditional handicraft techniques. The festival begins at the old imperial parade and ends at the Heian-Jingu Shrine. This is a beautiful glimpse of old Kyoto history in all its glory. It’s almost like visiting a museum.

For more information, please visit here.


Reitaisai at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture) Mid September

Reitaisai

Kamakura is situated south west of Tokyo, about one hour by train. Kamakura was once a political center of Japan like Kyoto and the first city created under the Samurai government system whereas Kyoto or Nara placed the Emperor at the center. Today, the city still sustains a wealth of history and culture.

With over 800 years of tradition, Reitaisai (Annual Major Ritual) is the most important function for the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. Reitaisai consists of a number of rituals and events. Hamaori-shiki is a purification ritual in the sea before starting Reitaisai. For proof of purification, priests bring back seaweed to the shrine to hang on all the gates in the shrine. What follows next is an evening ceremony, main annual rite and portable shrine procession. Incredibly the highlight of all is Yabusame- Shinji. The Yabusame ritual originated from the middle of the 6th century as a Shinto ritual. Horseback riders shoot arrows at wooden targets and fragments of the target were in fact used to tell fortunes. Yabusame was popular among the samurai warriors. Experience traditional Shinto rituals in the historical town of Kamakura.

For more information, please visit here.


Niihama Taiko Festival (Niihama, Ehime Prefecture) Mid October

Niihama Taiko Festival

The Niihama Taiko (drum) Festival is an energetic festival held in October every year. It was started to give thanks for an abundant autumn harvest. Massive 53 drum floats blazing with beautiful gold embroidery with features such as tigers and dragons weigh about 2.5 ton each and are hoisted in the air by about 150 bearers dressed in the costumes of Edo Era firemen. The drum floats are seen mostly at fisherman villages and port towns along Seto Inland Sea. Among these towns, Niihama Taiko Festival is the most famous drum float festival because of its gorgeous floats and braving style. Approximately 200,000 people enjoy the festival every year.

For more information about Ehime prefecture, visit here.





Events in the US: Save the Date!

J-POP SUMMIT 2016

July 22 (Fri) – July 24 (Sun), 2016
Venues: Fort Mason Center and The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco

J-POP SUMMIT

San Francisco will welcome back its annual J-POP SUMMIT, one of the largest Japanese cultural festivals in the US. The J-POP SUMMIT is entering its 8th year and introduces the latest in Japanese music, fashion, film, art, games, tech-innovations, anime, food as well as niche-subcultures.

It will be held at The Regency Ball Room on July 22nd and at the Fort Mason Center on July 23rd and 24th.

At the Regency Ball Room on the opening night, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Japan’s pop princess is performing live. She is on the 3rd leg of her world tour themed around her brand new song “5iVE YEARS MONSTER”. WORLD ORDER will perform for the very first time in San Francisco on the main stage of the Fort Mason Center on July 24th. WORLD ORDER is a dance performance group who combine parody incorporated into an image of Japanese business people with pop and sensitive dance music. Enjoy “J-POP Queen” Drag Contest with Mitz Mangrove, appearing as a judge! Mitz is in fact Japan’s prominent celebrity crossdresser, singer and TV personality.

Hungry? Come along to the Food Park, situated in front of the Festival pavilion. As well as a variety of food trucks and food vendors, you can enjoy the RAMEN SUMMIT where the top rated ramen restaurants gather in one place. It’s a great chance to taste a range of Sake. Also workshops for Sushi and Japanese food is planned for those who want to make their own!

The J-POP SUMMIT will be the place to soak up an outstanding Japanese atmosphere. Don't miss the performances, latest exhibition and indulge in tasting a variety of foods and drinks. Guaranteed to be a highlight of your summer!

All tickets are available now. For more information, please click here.

For more information, please visit here.



Information is provided as a courtesy to users of this website. Though the JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgement and at their own risk. Neither the JNTO nor any holder of copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.

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