Japan is well known for its summertime festivities or matsuri. Stunning fireworks displays, energetic singers and dancers parading through the streets, and food stalls selling traditional fare, luring festival goers with delicious aromas. Although the more well-known festivals like Nebuta in Aomori and Awa Odori in Tokushima attract literally millions each year, there are still those hidden gems and unique summer celebrations that fly just under the radar for most tourists. Take a look at these unforgettable festival suggestions for the perfect way to experience Japan in the summertime.
Hell Valley Demon Fireworks, Hokkaido
One might be startled by the 59 foot tall demon statue welcoming visitors to Noboribetsu hot spring resort in Hokkaido’s central region but fear not, these particular demons or yukiji are tasked with protecting the hot springs (and its visitors) as well as warding off any actual evil spirits. To celebrate this service the community, each June townspeople don their demon garb and perform a spectacular weekly dance and fireworks display as they parade along the town’s demon footpath. This culminates in the annual Noboribetsu Hell Festival held the last weekend in August when visitors can enjoy a parade of demon dancers, festival games, and of course delicious street food.
Dates: Every Thursday and Friday, June – August 2017
For More Information: http://www.noboribetsu-spa.jp/?events=onihanabi&lang=en
Kanto Festival, Akita
Akita prefecture in the far north of Japan’s main island is known for producing some of the best rice in the country and it is for this reason that the Kanto festival began, to pray for a bountiful and successful rice harvest. The kanto, large bamboo poles adorned with lanterns that symbolize rice bales, are paraded through the streets in an impressive show of strength. The poles, which can reach up to 39 feet tall and weigh over 100lbs, are not carried by hand but rather precariously balanced on hips, shoulders, and even foreheads as each pole bearer attempts to outdo the others.
Dates: August 3rd – 6th 2017
For More Information: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/spot/festival/akitakanto.html
Nachi Fire Festival, Wakayama
The Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine sits atop a cliff overlooking the sacred Nachi waterfall in Wakayama’s World Heritage Kumano Mountains. The site is a sacred one that plays host annually to one of Japan’s 3 great fire festivals. During the ritual, 12 oversized pine torches are set ablaze and carried up and down the shrine steps to purify and cleanse the spirits of the 12 deities believed to dwell in Kumano. This spectacular display is enhanced by the backdrop of the great waterfall and the primeval forests of the surrounding Kumano Mountains.
Dates: July 14th, 2017
For More Information: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/spot/festival/nachinoogi.html
Uwajima Bull Devil Festival, Ehime
The coastal prefecture of Ehime on the island of Shikoku is home to a strange creature known as a “bull demon” or ushi-oni which appears once a year in July to be paraded through the streets to the delight of festival goers. The festival peaks with a dazzling fireworks display as the parade route concludes at the Suka River where young men then compete to be the first to climb a giant bamboo pole jutting out of the water and claim a sacred artifact at its top. Visitors can also sign up in advance to join the competition known as hashiri-komi.
Dates: July 24th, 2017
For More Information: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/spot/festival/wareitaisai.html
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