Where to Find the Top 3 Summer Festivals in Japan
Japan is known for castles and onsens – hot springs, but if you are visiting Japan in the summer, you won’t want to miss the festivals throughout the archipelago. There are traditional and modern music festivals, firework festivals, school festivals and more!
Let’s start off in Tokushima, Japan, a prefecture located on an off-shore island almost 6 hours away from Tokyo or 3 hours from Osaka by train. Despite the distance, people from all over the country flock to Tokushima every August to enjoy the simplest of pleasures—good food and great music, and dancing. Awaodori is an amazing outdoor dance festival held since the Edo era about 400 years ago. It is a traditional, cultural, and simply entertaining event.
Guests can purchase seats to watch various groups display their interpretations of an ancient tune. Dance steps are typically categorized as “masculine” and “feminine” but can be performed by both men and women, young or old.
Awa, which translates to silly, and Odori, which means dance, is a term given to this festival to describe how ridiculous the pioneers looked as they danced for three days and three nights. This tradition has not been changed ever since.
If you are unable to travel to Tokushima, do not fret. Several cities in Tokyo pay homage to this festival on a smaller scale. One of the more popular ones is the Tokyo Koenji Awaodori.
If dancing or even watching people dance for three whole nights is too tiring, why not grab a spot and watch fireworks as you sip on beer? I was fascinated by the fireworks in Japan and have always shared my amazement with my family and friends. Summers in Japan are hot and humid, but that doesn’t stop people from gathering to spend hours looking up in the sky. Yes, you read that right, a typical fireworks event lasts two to three hours.
In Tokyo, the Sumida River Fireworks is the most famous event. Other regions also hold their own festivals and competitions, such as Tsuchiura city which is a short train ride from Tokyo, holds the Annual Tsuchiura Firework Competition, where the cream of the crop showcase their creativity to wow the crowds. Other firework shows are organized by the local governments and/or organizations to thank the locals for their support.
Things to note:
- Research “firework events” or “hanabi” (Japanese word for fireworks) before booking your trip because such events happen often but the dates differ each year. If you want the best seats, search for the possibility to purchase tickets ahead of time or secure your spot the night before. Bring a picnic mat and remember to tape it down!
- Have your camera ready! Expect to see a variety of creations such as Doraemon or Hello Kitty in the sky. Some prefectures also incorporate their local flair into their firework designs such as “squids” seen in Hokkaido because of their famous seafood.
- Don’t forget to bring extra trash bags and separate your trash! Many fireworks events are held in large public areas such as public schools and parks. Be considerate, and don’t leave your trash behind.
Last but not least, if you’re a fan of famous Japanese animation characters, don’t miss the Pikachu Outbreak in Yokohama that happens every August. Beware of cuteness overload!
This year the main event takes place August 6 – August 12. Take the Minato-Mirai Line to Yokohama city located in Kanagawa prefecture. The Minato-Mirai Line offers an affordable day pass to take you to and from major stations within Tokyo.
Upon arriving at the Minato-Mirai station, you’ll be met by Pikachu’s assistants handing out paper Pikachu hats. Take a look around and you will be surrounded by gigantic Pikachu floats.
The Pikachu Outbreak March usually takes place slightly after lunch with details withheld till the day itself. Team Pikachu is doing a really good job at surprising their guests! Other performances such as mini dramas and dance performances are also available throughout the festival period.
Summer is one of my favorite seasons to visit Japan because of how lively the country becomes. If you are looking for a fun trip, be sure to check out the amazing festivals going on in or around your destination.