Traditional Festivals (Matsuri)
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri [Aomori City]
The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is one of the big three festivals of its kind in the Tohoku region. "Nebuta" is in reference to the warriors carried on floats travelling to the center of the city. Aomori puts on an amazing spectacle with gigantic lantern-floats surrounded by dancers in unique costumes dancing to traditional music. This event attracts approximately 3 million people every year. A must see!
Sendai Tanabata Matsuri [Sendai]
Sendai Tanabata Festival is a traditional, probably the most elegant summer festival that exists in Japan. People love to come to visit and watch the colourful decorations mostly made of paper.
Akita Kanto Matsuri [Akita City]
Akita Kanto Festival is one of the biggest summer festivals in Tohoku region (north-east part) of Japan. People write wishes on a strip of paper, hang them on a bamboo pole, walk around the town with it and at the end they let it float away on a river. Today they hang lamps instead of papers with wishes, which makes it look like an ear of rice.
Asagaya Tanabata Matsuri [Tokyo]
The Asagaya Tanabata Matsuri is a festival held as part of the Star Festival, or Tanabata, celebrated in Japan usually in early August. According to Japanese legend, the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi which are separated by the Milky Way meet on that day only. For the event, the Asagaya Pearl Center shopping arcade is decorated with huge colourful streamers and popular characters that are made of paper.
The Hachioji Festival is one of the major summer festivals of Tokyo. It is held after the weekend of the Hachioji Fireworks. People from outside the region gather in Hachioji during the 3-day even to see the traditional float procession of portable shrines, hear the beats of taiko drummers, and enjoy the night market among many other things that you can do at a Japanese matsuri.
Traditional Dance Festivals (Awa Odori)
Tokushima Awa Odori [Tokushima]
At the Tokushima Awa Odori Festival, over a period of four days, approximately 1000 local groups called ren perform awa dances to the music of traditional Japanese instruments. Dressed in yukata (summer kimono) they advance in a procession on a pre-set course in the streets of Tokushima. The dance is performed in synchronicity and in irregular steps reminding us that this was a dance originally performed by drunks! Yet, there is a lot of grace to it in its current form.
Koenji is a neighborhood located at just a 6 minute train ride from Shinjuku on the Chuo Line. It is home to the second biggest awa odori festival in the all of Japan (the biggest one being the original in Tokushima).
Fireworks Festivals (Hanabi Taikai)
Omagari Fireworks [Akita]
Fireworks festival held at Omagari is recognized as one of the major fireworks festivals in Japan! Ever since it started in 1910, it is enjoyed as fireworks competition where you get to watch different kinds of amazing fireworks at once! They will be holding two fireworks during the day: Day time fireworks and night time fireworks. Although its start time is in the evening, getting there as early as possible is strongly recommended.
Edogawa Fireworks [Tokyo]
Edogawa fireworks festival takes place at the venue called Shinozaki located on the banks of the Edogawa, or Edo River. Having a long history, it is one of the most famous summer festivals in Tokyo.
Jingu Gaien Fireworks [Tokyo]
Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival takes place in the Jingu stadiums, which are located near Gaienmae, Aoyama, Yoyogi area. This festival first started in 1980 and ever since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, they donate some of the money they get through collecting ticket money.
Itabashi Fireworks [Tokyo]
Itabashi Firework Festival started in 1951 and every year it is at Tokyo Itabashi, right above a bridge called Todabashi. Many of the fireworks are designed uniquely so that it would fire horizontally. The most famous is their "Niagara Falls" which is a 700m long firework that fires right along the Arakawa river.
Yodogawa Fireworks [Osaka]
Osaka is known as a city of water, due to its numbers of rivers in Osaka. Yodogawa is one of the well known rivers in Osaka, and locals decided to come together as one and host a firework event at Yodogawa, run by volunteers. Huge fireworks goes on for an hour, and you can enjoy the combination of music and beautiful fireworks.
Summer Sonic takes place in Chiba every year since 2000 and focuses mainly on major national artists and international singers and bands. It's one of the hugest music festivals in Japan.