Summer festivals are held in numerous cities and villages all around Japan.
If you are traveling to Japan in July, and want to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of some of these festivals check out one or more of these upcoming events.
Festivals In or near Tokyo in July
Iriya no Asagao-ichi, Kishibo-Jin Shrine, Taito Ward, Tokyo
Iriya (morning glories) flowers are said to symbolise the beginning of summer and bring good luck. Thousands of people will visit the Kishibojin Temple area to buy morning glory plants from hundreds of street stalls.
Shiman Rokusen-nichi, Sensou-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo
Held in the area of Tokyo known as the true "shitamachi" area (true downtown area), the 'Shiman Rokusen-nichi,' which means 'day of 46,000,' it is said that if you make a visit to Sensou-ji Temple on these days you get 'credit' for visiting on 46,000 normal days. Many thousands of people turn out and hundreds of stalls sell potted hozuki (ground cherry) plants and wind chimes until midnight.
Sumida River Fireworks Display, Sumida River, Asakusa, Tokyo
If you REALLY want to see some crowds of people be sure to catch this festival. It is one of the largest fireworks displays in all Japan. Harking back to Edo times (1603-1867) when firework makers would come here to compete to create the most sensational displays, this event draws hundreds of thousands of people every year.
Samukawa Jinja Hamaorisai, Samukawa Shrine, Chigasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture
A mikoshi (portable shrine) parade begins at the shrine at 02:30 A.M. and proceeds through the streets of the city towards the beach. Mikoshi from neighboring shrines join in along the way. By the time they reach the beach may be more than 30 mikoshi. At dawn, crowds of as many as 150,000 people watch them borne into the cleansing waters of the sea as part of a purification ceremony.
OUT OF TOKYO, BUT NOT TOO FAR AWAY
Yokohama Summer Night Festival, Yamashita Park, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Only about a 30 minute train ride from Tokyo head on down to Yokohama & watch professional and amateur musicians, dancers and other entertainers perform on stages in Yamashita Park and on floating stages in the bay. After the festival visit the Red Brick shopping area or have a walk through Chinatown and try some great food at one of the many Chinese restaurants in Japan's biggest China town.
Uchiwa Matsuri, Yasaka Shrine, Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture
This festival is famous for its parade of 12 highly-decorated dashi floats and the uchiwa or round fans that are given out to festival goers. Go see the parade & come home with a fan.
Shounan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri, Shounan City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Tanabata is the festival held during the time when two star crossed lovers are said to meet for their annual reunion. One of Japan's largest festivals is the Tanabata festivals, which attracts more than 3 million people every year. Colourful decorations and illuminations brighten up the entire downtown area during this festival in Shounan, which is also one of Japan's most popular surfing spots.
Hakata Gion Yamagasa, Kushida Shrine, Fukuoka
If you have time to fly (or take the Bullet Train / Shinkansen) down to Kyushu, be sure to catch the Sacred Gion festival of Kushida Shrine in Hakata (the name of the old quarter of Fukuoka, the main city in Kyushu).
This festival dates back to the 13th century. Prayer ceremonies and festivities begin at the shrine from July 1 and from this date Hakata's famous kazari-yamakasa go on display. These beautifully-crafted floats depict scenes from various historical or legendary tales but at around 16m high, they are too large to be carried. You can see them positioned at various points around the city center.
The highlight is the kakiyamakasa race on the last day of the festival from 5:00 A.M. At five-minute intervals, teams of happi (short festival jackets) wearing bearers carrying the smaller, but equally extravagant kaki-yamakasa floats race around a 5 km circuit to see who can get the best time. The frenzied rush lasts for about 30 minutes as teams of about 100 people take turns carrying the one-ton float, which requires 32 people to carry. Spectators throw water on the teams as they pass.