Japan’s Best Matsuri Festivals and Fireworks during Summer 2019 July-August

Japan’s Best Matsuri Festivals and Fireworks during Summer 2019 July-August


2019.07.06

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Japan’s Best Matsuri Festivals and Fireworks during Summer 2019 July-August

Despite the hot temperatures, summer in Japan is a time to celebrate, with a variety of unique cultural festivals and incredible fireworks displays. To help plan your trip, we’ve put together a list of some of the best matsuri (“festivals”) not to miss, whether you want to dance, be entertained or see the night sky illuminated in dazzling colors!

  • 01

    Gion Matsuri (祇園際), Kyoto

    Gion Matsuri

    Gion Matsuri

    The Gion Matsuri takes place over one month each July and has gained a reputation as one of Japan’s most famous festivals.

    In fact, this year marks the 1150th year since its foundation! Parades of yamaboko floats, mikoshi shrines and lanterns are held throughout the month, with the festival culminating in the Yamaboko Junkō. In the days leading up to this event, the streets are lined with food stalls while people dressed in yukata (summer kimonos) stroll the streets.

    Gion Matsuri

    Gion Matsuri

    Event dates: July 1 - 31 2019
    URL:http://www.yasaka-jinja.or.jp/event/gion.html

    Yasaka-jinja Shrine (Gion Shrine)
    place
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Higashiyama-ku Gionmachikitagawa 625
    phone
    0755616155
    opening-hour
    Free worship
  • 02

    Nachi no Ogi Matsuri (Nachi Fire Festival: 那智の火祭り), Wakayama

    Nachi no Ogi Matsuri

    Nachi no Ogi Matsuri

    Held each year at Kumano Nachi Taisha, the Nachi no Ogi Matsuri is one of Japan’s three big fire festivals and has been designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

    The shrine is located adjacent to the 133-meter-high Nachi Falls, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Deities enshrined at Kumano Nachi Taisha are carried down the stone steps that lead to Nachi Falls on portable shrines, followed by devotees dressed in white and carrying flaming torches.

    Nachi no Ogi Matsuri

    Nachi no Ogi Matsuri

    Event date: July 14 2019
    URL:http://kumanonachitaisha.or.jp/ougimaturi/ougi.html

    Nachinohimaturi
    place
    Wakayama Pref. Higashimurogunnachikatsurachou Nachisan
    phone
    0735525311
  • 03

    Yasukuni Shrine Mitama Matsuri (靖国神社みたままつり), Tokyo

    Yasukuni Shrine Mitama Matsuri

    Yasukuni Shrine Mitama Matsuri

    The Yasukuni Shrine’s annual Mitama Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s biggest obon (a Japanese Buddhist custom honoring ancestral spirits).

    It sees more than 30,000 lanterns of all sizes scattered throughout the shrine grounds, making for an incredibly photogenic scene. Aside from the lanterns, there are also mikoshi (portable shrine) parades and concerts of traditional music and dance, not to mention plenty of food and drink stalls lining the approach to the shrine.

    Yasukuni Shrine Mitama Matsuri

    Yasukuni Shrine Mitama Matsuri

    Event dates: July 13-16 2019
    URL:https://www.yasukuni.or.jp/schedule/saiji.html

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    Yasukuni Shrine
    rating

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    7 Reviews
    place
    Tokyo Chiyoda-ku Kudankita 3-1-1
    phone
    0332618326
    opening-hour
    [1/2/11/Dec.] 6:00-17:00 [Ma…
  • 04

    Adachi Fireworks (足立の花火), Tokyo

    Adachi Fireworks

    Adachi Fireworks

    Taking place along the Arakawa River (just a short walk from Kita-Senju Station), the Adachi Fireworks have become one of the most popular fireworks events in Tokyo. The wide river banks mean that it’s easy to find a spot to enjoy a picnic and watch the display from numerous vantage points.

    This exceptional fireworks spectacle goes for around an hour, so you can really settle in and enjoy the experience.x

    Event date: July 20 2019

    Adachi Fireworks
    place
    Tokyo Adachi-ku Senjuokawachou Ahead
    phone
    0338800039
  • 05

    Tenjin Matsuri (天神祭), Osaka

    Tenjin Matsuri

    Tenjin Matsuri

    Taking place in Osaka for more than 1,000 years at the Tenmangu Shrine, the Tenjin Matsuri honors the shrine’s principal deity, Sugawara Michizane. It includes a ritual throwing of the sacred sword at the Hokonagashi Bridge, followed by the parade of mikoshi (portable shrines) around the main shrine.

    A highlight of the festival is the parade of red-hatted drummers and costumed characters, together with boats illuminated by torches cruising along the river.

    Event dates: The schedule for this year has not yet been announced yet.
    URL:http://www.tenjinmatsuri.com/

    Tenjin Matsuri
    place
    Osaka Osakashi Kita-ku Tenjimbashi 2-1-8
    phone
    0663530025
  • 06

    Sumida River Fireworks Festival (隅田川花火大会), Tokyo

    Sumida River Fireworks Festival

    Sumida River Fireworks Festival

    Perhaps the most famous event in Tokyo each summer is the Sumida River Fireworks Festival, which is held on the last Saturday in July. It began in the Edo period as a rivalry between different pyrotechnic groups, with fireworks being launched during a period of economic crisis, famine and disease. This celebration of life now attracts around one million people to the river banks to enjoy the latest in fireworks technology.

    Sumida River Fireworks Festival

    Sumida River Fireworks Festival

    Event date: July 27 2019
    URL:https://www.sumidagawa-hanabi.com/

    Sumida River Fireworks Festival
    place
    Tokyo Sumida-ku Mukoujima
    phone
    0352461111
  • 07

    The Tohoku Region's Summer Festivals

    The Tohoku Region's Summer Festivals

    The Tohoku Region's Summer Festivals

    We couldn’t talk about summer festivals in Japan without mentioning the Tohoku Region, which is particularly famed for its celebrations. The six prefectures of Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate and Yamagata put on a variety of matsuri that feature paper lanterns, parades and firework displays. If you want to coincide your trip with these summer festivals, they can easily be visited with a JR Pass.

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  • 08

    Aomori Nebuta Festival (青森ねぶた祭), Aomori

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Aomori Nebuta Festival

    Featuring magnificent floats, the Aomori Nebuta Festival attracts the most tourists of any of Japan’s nebuta festivals. Its origins are believed to date to the 9th century when General Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro’s army created fearsome creatures to scare their enemy away.

    Floats based on famous historical and mythological Japanese characters are carried through the streets by costumed dancers known as haneto and taiko drummers who invite onlookers to join the parade.

    Event dates: August 2-7 2019
    URL:https://www.nebuta.or.jp/

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    The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri
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    Aomori Nebuta Festival
    place
    Aomori Prefecture Aomori city center
    phone
    0177237211
  • 09

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival (弘前ねぷた祭), Aomori

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Hirosaki Neputa Festival

    Situated in the old castle town of Hirosaki, this festival features fan-shaped floats that depict fantastical images of warriors being paraded through the streets. They’re accompanied by traditional flutes and taiko drummers, with the festival having been designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan.

    A highlight of the festival is the odaikos (very large traditional drums) whose sound is so profound that you can feel the vibrations through your entire body.

    Event dates: August 1-7 2019
    URL:https://www.hirosaki-kanko.or.jp/web/edit.html?id=cat02_summer_neputa

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    Hirosaki Neputa Festival
    place
    Aomori Pref. Hirosakishi Mototeramachi
    phone
    0172375501
  • 10

    Sansa Odori Festival (さんさ踊り), Morioka

    With more than 10,000 taiko drummers and dancers parading through the streets, the Sansa Odori Festival has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest taiko drum festival in the world. It’s said to have originated when a wicked demon was punished by the god of Mitsuishi Shrine, with the locals rejoicing in response.

    Aside from the main parade, you can also see traditional dance performances at venues across the city.

    Event dates: August 1-4 2019
    URL:http://www.sansaodori.jp/

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    The Morioka Sansa Festival
    If you are into dancing and drumming, you’d better add the Morioka Sansa Festival to your itinerary …

    Iwate Morioka Sansa Odori Festival
    place
    Iwate Pref. Moriokashi Uchimaru
    phone
    0196043305
  • 11

    Akita Kanto Festival (秋田竿燈まつり), Akita

    Akita Kanto Festival

    Akita Kanto Festival

    Designated as one of the three great festivals of the Tohoku Region, this festival takes place on Chuo Dori, with drums, flutes and people chanting as kanto poles measuring 12 meters in length and carrying up to 46 illuminated paper lanterns are precariously balanced by skilled performers.

    A highlight of the festival is the night parades, with the opportunity to talk to the performers and try your hand at hoisting up a kanto.

    Event dates: August 3-6 2019
    URL:http://www.kantou.gr.jp/index.htm

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    Akita Kanto Festival
    place
    Akita-shi Akita City Akita-shi lamp street
    phone
    0188885602
  • 12

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival (山形花笠まつり), Yamagata

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

    One of Tohoku’s largest parades, the Yamagata Hanagasa Festival features a lavishly decorated float of Zao Gongen leading a procession of nearly 10,000 dancers in brightly colored costumes. It takes place in the main street of Yamagata City, accompanied by taiko drummers and hypnotic umbrella spinning.

    A variety of different dances are performed throughout the parade, with spectators invited to join in and dance along.

    Event dates: August 5-7 2019
    URL:http://www.hanagasa.jp/

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    The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
    Once a year the otherwise sleepy town of Yamagata quadruples in size. …

    Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
    place
    Yamagata Pref. Yamagatashi Tokamachi 1-chome
    phone
    0236428753
  • 13

    Sendai Tanabata Festival (仙台七夕まつり), Miyagi

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Sendai Tanabata Festival

    Originating from the Chinese Qixi Festival, the Sendai Tanabata Festival celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi on the 7th day of the 7th month.

    It was first introduced to Japan in the 8th century, with the festival in Sendai becoming one of the most famous tanabata. Thousands of colorful streamers and paper decorations hanging from long bamboo poles decorate the city, with live music, traditional dance performances and a fireworks display among the highlights.

    Event dates: August 6-8 2019
    URL:https://www.sendaitanabata.com/

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    Sendai Tanabata Festival
    place
    Miyagi Pref. Sendaishi Aoba-ku Honchou 2-16-12
    phone
    0222658185
  • 14

    Waraji Matsuri (わらじ祭り), Fukushima

    Waraji Matsuri

    Waraji Matsuri

    Waraji are sandals made from straw and feature in this annual celebration at the start of August. A 12-meter-long waraji is paraded down the street as a symbol of safe travels, making its way to the Haguro Shrine on Mount Shinobu.

    Traditional dance routines and modern hip-hop performances also take place, followed by a series of waraji races as teams try to carry an oversized straw sandal as quickly as possible.

    Event dates: August 2-4 2019
    URL:https://www.waraji.co.jp/

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    Fukushima Warajimaturi
    place
    Fukushima Pref. Fukushimashi Sakaemachi
    phone
    0245365511
  • 15

    Nagaoka Fireworks Festival (長岡まつり大花火大会), Niigata

    Nagaoka Fireworks Festival

    Nagaoka Fireworks Festival

    While Nagaoka is a relatively quiet city for much of the year, it comes alive during its annual fireworks festival at the start of August. It’s considered one of the top three fireworks displays in Japan and was originally created to buoy the spirits of local residents following World War II bombing.

    Thousands of people now head to the banks of the Shinano River to watch the breathtaking displays, with the fireworks recreating flowers, volcanoes and even waterfalls.

    Nagaoka Fireworks Festival

    Nagaoka Fireworks Festival

    Event dates: August 2-3 2019
    URL:https://nagaokamatsuri.com/

    Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks
    place
    Niigata Prefecture Nagaoka-shi Chosei Hashigashi River riverbed
    phone
    0258390823
  • 16

    Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival (びわ湖大花火大会), Shiga

    Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival

    Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival

    Situated to the northeast of Kyoto, Lake Biwa provides the setting for an incredible fireworks display every August. More than 10,000 pyrotechnics are launched into the air and reflected in this body of water, with the best views on offer in the ticketed seating area. Each year has a different theme, with the fireworks designed to reflect it in what is a stunning visual spectacle.

    Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival

    Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival

    Event date: August 8 2019
    URL:https://www.biwako-visitors.jp/hanabi/

    Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival
    place
    Shiga Pref. Otsushi Uchidehama Okitsu prefectural off the coast of Otsugo
    phone
    0775111530
  • 17

    Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival (なにわ淀川花火大会), Osaka

    Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival

    Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival

    The Yodo River is the setting for the Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival, which takes place in the city of Osaka. The river banks provide the ideal place to watch the pyrotechnics (with both paid and free seating available), with views of the city skyline illuminated below. This huge fireworks display extends for an hour, accompanied by a soundtrack of inspiring music.

    Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival

    Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival

    Event date: August 10 2019
    URL:https://www.yodohanabi.com/

    Naniwa Yodogawa River Fireworks Show
    place
    Osaka Osakashi Yodogawa-ku Shinkitano 3-chome Nearby (Yodogawa Riverbed)
    phone
    0663077765
  • 18

    Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival (諏訪湖祭湖上花火大会), Nagano

    Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival

    Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival

    One of the largest fireworks displays in Japan, the Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival sees more than 40,000 pyrotechnics exploded above the lake, with their sound reverberating around the adjacent mountains.

    Like the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival, it began in the post-World War II years to lift people’s spirits and today culminates in a two-kilometer-long waterfall of sparkling fireworks that attracts an audience from near and far.

    Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival

    Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival

    Event date: August 15 2019
    URL:https://suwako-hanabi.com/kojyou/

    Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival
    place
    Nagano Pref. Suwashi Kogandori Lake shore park
    phone
    0266524141
  • 19

    Yosakoi Festival (よさこい祭り), Kochi

    Yosakoi Festival

    Yosakoi Festival

    One of Japan’s 10 largest festivals, the Yosakoi Festival is a vibrant celebration of dance in Kochi City. It’s been taking place for more than 60 years, with teams of yosakoi dancers and beautifully decorated floats parading through the main street in competition with one another.

    More than 200 teams and around 20,000 people participate, with dance styles ranging from traditional to contemporary.

    Yosakoi Festival

    Yosakoi Festival

    Event date: August 9-12 2019
    URL:http://www.cciweb.or.jp/kochi/yosakoiweb/

    Yosakoi Festival
    place
    Kouchi Pref. Kouchishi Otesuji 2-chome
    phone
    0888751178
  • 20

    Awa Odori Festival (阿波踊り), Tokushima

    Awa Odori Festival

    Awa Odori Festival

    One of the most famous dance festivals to be held in Japan is the Awa Odori Festival, which attracts more than one million tourists every year and can be combined with a visit to Kochi’s Yosakoi Festival.

    It features groups of choreographed dancers (known as ren) and musicians wearing traditional costumes parading through the streets, accompanied by taiko drums, flutes and shamisen lutes. While there are events during the day, it’s the nighttime parades that are the real highlight.

    Awa Odori Festival

    Awa Odori Festival

    URL:https://www.awaodori.tokushima.jp/

    Awa Dance (Awa Odori)
    place
    Tokushima city Tokushima city center
    phone
    0886215298
  • 21

    Gujo Odori Festival (郡上おどり), Gifu

    Gujo Odori Festival

    Gujo Odori Festival

    Designated an Important Intangible Cultural Folk Asset, the Gujo Odori Festival is a traditional dance festival that has a history of more than 400 years. It originated during the Tokugawa Period to encourage the town’s citizens to gather, regardless of their social status.

    Ten dances and their related songs are performed during the festival, including the popular “Kawasaki” and “Haru Koma”. While nightly dance performances will take place from August 13-16, there will also be occasional performances from July 13 to September 7.

    Gujo Odori Festival

    Gujo Odori Festival

    Event dates: July 13 - September 7 2019
    URL:http://www.gujohachiman.com/kanko/odori.html

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    Gujo Odori
    rating

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    place
    Gifu Pref. Gujoushi Hachimanchoushinmachi
    phone
    0575670002
  • 22

    Koenji Awa Odori (高円寺阿波踊り), Tokyo

    Koenji Awa Odori

    Koenji Awa Odori

    One of the largest street festivals in Tokyo during the summer is the Koenji Awa Odori, which is held on the last weekend of August. Dance troupes of up to 100 people parade through the streets, accompanied by drums, flutes and shamisen, with the women wearing yukata, geta sandals and straw hats.

    More than one million people attend over the two-day festival to see the three-hour parade that takes place each night.

    Koenji Awa Odori

    Koenji Awa Odori

    Event dates: August 24-25 2019
    URL:http://www.koenji-awaodori.com/

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    Tokyo Koenji Awa-Odori
    place
    Tokyo Suginami-ku Kouenjiminami ツキ Koenji Temple
    phone
    0333122728
  • 23

    Omagari Fireworks Festival (大曲の花火), Akita

    Omagari Fireworks Festival

    Omagari Fireworks Festival

    Marking the end of the summer is the Omagari Fireworks Festival, which has illuminated the skies of Tohoku for more than a century. Aside from being an incredible show to watch, it’s also a competition between some of Japan’s most exceptional pyrotechnicians as they showcase their unique skills.

    It’s the first fireworks festival in Japan to shine the light on these often anonymous masters, with a different theme presented each year.

    Omagari Fireworks Festival

    Omagari Fireworks Festival

    Event date: August 31 2019
    URL:https://www.oomagari-hanabi.com/

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    Omagari National Fireworks Competition
    place
    Akita Pref. Daisenshi Omagarinishine
    phone
    0187888073

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