Some of Japan’s best festivals take place in August. Lucky us, they’re mostly free too!
The Nagaoka Festival – Niigata (Aug 1-3)
The Nagaoka Festival is held from August 1st to August 3rd around the Shinano River in Nagaoka City. Its main attractions are the portable shrine float parades and folk dance processions during the day with large-scale fireworks displays in the evening on both days.
The 357th Chikugogawa Fireworks Festival – Fukuoka (Aug 5)
Dating back to 1650, this is one of Japan’s longest running fireworks festivals. With 18,000 fireworks and 400,000 spectators, it’s also one of the largest in western Japan.
Yatori-no Shinji Festival – Kyoto (Aug 6)
A high-intensity event at one of Japan’s most ancient Shinto shrines tucked away on the northern side of central Kyoto where 60 young men fight for one of only 50 lucky arrows.
2016 Kobe Port Fireworks Festival – Hyogo (Aug 6)
This event is rated as one the top fireworks festivals in the Kansai region. In past years, approximately a quarter of a million people have gathered to see 10,000 explosive projectiles shot into the night sky.
Akita Kanto Festival – Akita (Aug 3-6)
Festival performers balance kanto (poles which are approximately 15-metres long from which hang 46 lanterns) on their forehead or lower backs while walking the parade route. They are accompanied by bands of bamboo flute players and are urged on by the spectators.
Hinokuni Festival – Kumamoto (Aug 5-6)
The festival will feature various dance troupes and competitions as well as a “Natsu Machi Yokocho” (summer town drinking alley).
The Nebuta Festival – Aomori (Aug 2-7)
This festival for which Aomori is most famous takes place in towns and cities across the Tsugaru Plain during the week of August 2nd to August 7th. The main procession of the festival consists of large internally lit floats depicting kabuki scenes that are wheeled around wildly from side to side.
Sendai Tanabata – Miyagi (Aug 6-8)
Sendai’s most famous summer festival. Encompassing the whole city of Sendai, neighborhoods hang colorful paper decorations, including handwritten strips of paper containing wishes of good fortune, paper kimonos, paper cranes, paper nets and streamers.
The last night of the festival sees a major fireworks festival with 16,000 fireworks and 500,000 spectators making it the most popular in the Tohoku region.
Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival – Hiroshima (Aug 11)
This fireworks festival combines one of Japan’s most scenic places with one of Japan’s favorite summer activities—fireworks. It has the advantage of offering one of the most stunning views around: fireworks on the surface of the water behind the giant torii gate.
Kanmon Straits Fireworks Festival – Fukuoka, Yamaguchi (Aug 13)
More than 1 million people on both sides of the strait are expected to watch the almost 1 hour long show in which 15,000 projectiles will be hurled into the night sky.
Yoshinogawa Festival and Fireworks – Nara (Aug 15)
Taking place on the banks of the Yoshino River in Shinmachi neighborhood of Gojo City, this is Nara prefecture’s most popular fireworks festival. Not content with a mere 4,000 exploding projectiles, the organizers have added a laser light show and music to the mix. The one hour show will finish with the launch of a spectacular “star mine” firework.
Tokushima Awa Odori Festival – Tokushima (Aug 12-15)
Tokushima Awa Odori is rated by many as Japan’s top summer festival. The festival was renowned as a raucous and drunken event and over the years a distinctive dance style emerged. Large groups participate in choreographed dance throughout the streets (which can be viewed for free) and at seven stages with reserved seating.
Lake Suwa Lake Surface Fireworks Festival – Nagano (Aug 15)
An incredible 40,000 fireworks go up in smoke at this mid summer fireworks festival.
Hitoyoshi Fireworks Festival – Kumamoto (Aug 15)
Taking place at the riverside in Nakagawahara Park in Hitoyoshi City, this fireworks festival is expecting roughly 55,000 people to attend to ooh and ah at 5,000 pyrotechnics.
Gozan no Okuribi – Kyoto (Aug 16)
The locals call it Daimonji, the celebration during the height of the O-bon festival where the city’s surrounding mountains are lit up with five bonfires. Three of the bonfires are lit in the form of kanji, while the other two are shapes of a boat and a Shinto gate.
Shakado River Fireworks Festival – Fukushima (Aug 20)
Each year, 300,000 residents of Fukushima and beyond line the banks of the Shakado River in Sukagawa City for the prefectures’s largest fireworks festival.
Omagari Fireworks Festival – Akita (Aug 27)
An incredible 760,000 spectators are expected for one of the Tohoku region’s biggest fireworks festival. This event is actually a national contest—fireworks teams from throughout the country compete with each other to put on the best show.
2016 Domannaka Matsuri – Aichi (Aug 27-28)
The Nippon Domannaka Festival is the largest team dance festival in the Chubu region of central Japan.
Started in 1999, the festival is open to a wide variety of dance styles and features teams from throughout Japan and also from overseas. The 23,000 performers attract an estimated audience of 1.85 million people.