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7 Must See Japanese Summer Festivals

A portable shrine in the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin Matsuri) in Osaka in 2013.

As you may know, Travel Photos company Director Andrew Blyth first established this company in Japan. He has extensively covered festivals and other cultural events there. With his knowledge, and vast photo library, comes these 7 favourites.

Summer festivals, or “matsuri,” are an integral part of Japanese culture. These lively events bring together communities to celebrate traditions, food, and fun. Here are some of the most popular Japanese summer festivals:

A portable shrine in the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin Matsuri) in Osaka.
A portable shrine in the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin Matsuri) in Osaka 2013.
  1. Gion Matsuri: Held in Kyoto in July, this festival is one of the most famous and largest in Japan. It features elaborately decorated floats, traditional music and dance, and a lively parade.
  2. Tenjin Matsuri: This festival is held in Osaka in July and is one of the three largest festivals in Japan. It celebrates the patron god of learning and scholarship with a river procession of boats and fireworks.
  3. Nebuta Matsuri: This festival is held in Aomori in August and features massive, illuminated paper lanterns shaped like warriors and mythical creatures. The lanterns are paraded through the streets while traditional music and dance is performed.
  4. Tanabata Matsuri: Held in various locations in Japan in July or August, this festival celebrates the legend of two star-crossed lovers who can only meet once a year. People write wishes on colorful strips of paper and tie them to bamboo trees.
  5. Hakata Gion Yamakasa: Held in Fukuoka in July, this festival features teams of men racing through the streets while carrying massive, decorated floats on their shoulders. It’s a unique and exciting event that attracts thousands of visitors.
  6. Awa Odori: This festival is held in Tokushima in August and is famous for its traditional dance performances. Men and women dance through the streets in colorful costumes and hats, accompanied by taiko drums and traditional music.
  7. Sendai Tanabata Matsuri: Held in Sendai in August, this festival is known for its colorful decorations made from paper and bamboo. The decorations include streamers, lanterns, and huge paper animals.
A man in the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin Matsuri) in Osaka.

In conclusion, Japanese summer festivals are a vibrant and exciting part of Japanese culture that celebrate tradition, community, and fun. Whether you’re interested in traditional music and dance, massive floats, or colorful decorations, there is a festival for everyone. If you’re ever in Japan during the summer months, make sure to check out one of these amazing events and experience the excitement for yourself.

An elderly man in the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin Matsuri) in Osaka.