Now, we are halfway into 2016, which means that Japan’s infamously sweltering summer is upon us. Still, summer is an awesome time to be in Japan as it seems that Japanese people, not wanting to be outdone by the heat, turn up their passion several notches higher, display their best spirited selves and basically turn the entire nation into an extravaganza of fun festivals and passionate parades! Even Mother Nature joins in the act, with the blossoming of beautiful hydrangeas, irises, sunflowers and lavenders electrifying the picturesque landscape. So jot down some of Japan’s top summer festivals in your travel planner and join in the fun!
Renowned for transforming the night sky into an explosive and energetic spectacle of breathtaking displays, Japan’s fireworks festivals are not to be missed. Leading the pack is Sumida River Fireworks Festival, which not only leaves you awestruck with more than 20,000 fireworks – incidentally, the greatest fireworks display in the whole of Tokyo – but also offers you sensational views of the fireworks accentuating the beauty of BOTH the Sumida River and the towering Tokyo Skytree Tower. Definitely a must-go for photo buffs who are into landscape photography.
-English Name: Sumida River Fireworks Festival
-Japanese Name: 隅田川花火大会
-Open Hours/Closed Day: 7.05 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. (July 30, 2016)
-Address: Sumida Park, Sumida River around Asakusa & Ryogoku, Mukojima, Sumida (Asakusa Station)
-Lat/Long: (35.725721, 139.74448)
-Phone number: 03-5246-1111 (Taito-ku Tourism Board)
If you are the kind who can’t live without music, then you will be happy to know that some fireworks festivals deftly use catchy music to complement their displays and bring you a multi-sensory experience. A great example of this is Fukuroi Enshu Fireworks Festival in Shizuoka Prefecture; it boasts the well-received “Japan’s Most Popular Melodies Starmine” in its line-up. Don’t get so engrossed in the seamless stimulation of sound and light that you forget to take photos and videos to commemorate the moment!
-English Name: Fukuroi Enshu Fireworks Festival
-Japanese Name: 袋井遠州の花火
-Open Hours/Closed Day: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (August 6, 2016)
-Address: Haranoyagawa Water Park, 3164-1 Aino, Fukuroi City
-Budget: From 4,000 yen to 20, 000 yen
-Lat/Long: (34.744869, 137.932562)
-Phone number: 0538-42-6151 (Fukuroi Enshu Fireworks Festival Organizing Committee)
Tanabata (Star) Festival
Who doesn’t love a tragic love story? The Asian counterparts of Romeo and Juliet, the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi are two star-crossed lovers separated by the Milky Way and can only be reunited once every year on the night of Tanabata. If you wish to observe how intertwined Tanabata Festival is in Japanese culture, I suggest that you visit Sendai City, for it organizes Japan’s largest and most famous Tanabata celebration from August 6 to 8. Walk through the shopping arcades and feast your eyes on the humongous artisanal paper streamers meticulously put together by schools and companies. Also see if your eyes are sharp enough to spot the seven kinds of decorations used in the displays – a practice exclusive to Sendai people! Including paper strips, paper kimono, paper cranes, purses, nets, trash bags and streamers, these decorations encapsulate the desire of Sendai people to usher in good fortune for their loved ones.
-English Name: Sendai Tanabata Festival
-Japanese Name: 仙台七夕まつり
-Open Hours/Closed Day: August 6 to 8
-Address: Entire city of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, but mainly Chuo Dori, Higashi Ichibancho Dori and around Shimin Hiroba.
-Lat/Long: (38.268215, 140.869356)
-Phone number: 022-265-8185 (Sendai Chamber of Commerce and Industry)
Bon Odori (Dance) Festival
Have you ever been to Nagoya Castle that will captivate you with its two gold dolphins (kinshachi) proudly perched on top of its roof? If you haven’t, you should consider visiting it in August, for the Nagoya Castle bon odori festival will be held then. Partake in the festive atmosphere with Nagoya natives as everyone, regardless of age and gender, dances as one to the pulsating tunes against the backdrop of the majestic Nagoya Castle! Not sure as to how to dance? Fret not! The locals will dance around a stage where a team of yukata-clad dancers will lead the moves, so just join in and have some fun!
-English Name: Nagoya Castle Summer Night Festival
-Japanese Name: 名古屋城宵まつり
-Open Hours/Closed Day: August 5 to 15
-Address: Nagoya Castle
-Budget: Admission fees apply
-Lat/Long: (35.183766, 136.900294)
-Phone number: +81-52-231-1700 (Nagoya Castle Management Office)
Alternatively, you may opt to lend support to Kumamoto City in its revitalization efforts after suffering a disastrous earthquake in April 2016. Simply visit it from August 5 to 7 so that you can witness the gaiety of the Hinokuni Festival. Soak up the infectious energy of Kumamoto people as they dance the entire night away to two rhythmic folk songs, “Otemoyan” and “Samba Otemoyan”. Or better still, sign up with the Kumamoto City International Center beforehand, join its team and dance confidently in the festival itself!
-English Name: Hinokuni Festival
-Japanese Name: 火の国まつり
-Open Hours/Closed Day: August 5 to 7
-Address: Around Kumamoto City center
-Lat/Long: (32.803100, 130.707891)
-Phone number: 096-334-1500 (Higomaru ”Call” Hotline)
Nothing features the vibrancy and exuberance of summer in Japan than expansive fields of flowers blooming in all their glory. If you adore sunflowers, you can make your way down to Zama City in Kanagawa Prefecture where 550,000 sunflowers blossom en mass in two separate batches, once in July and another time in August. Leave your worries behind as you lose yourself in a maze of sunflowers taller than you, basking in the beauty of sunflowers paired with clear blue skies. Or busy yourself with taking drop dead gorgeous selfies of you in the midst of the sunflowers and updating your Instagram!
-English Name: Zama Sunflower Festival
-Japanese Name: 座間ひまわりまつり
-Open Hours/Closed Day: August 11 to 16
-Address: Zama, Zama-shi, Kanagawa, Yotsuya, Kurihara
-Lat/Long: (35.488937, 139.390955)
-Phone number: 046-205-6515 (Zama City Tourist Association)
With a wide buffet of choices jostling for your time and attention, your summer in Japan will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced before: passionate, exhilarating and decidedly authentic. So go hop on the next flight to Japan and have the time of your life!