Some of Japan’s best festivals take place in August. And lucky for us, they’re mostly free!

This is one of the busiest months for events, with countless festivals featuring traditional dances, fireworks, and lantern floating. The festivals are a great opportunity to wear your yukata, so dress up and enjoy an authentic summer in Japan.

For events in Tokyo and the surrounding area, please visit our listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

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Kansai events

These are events in Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, Mie, and the surrounding areas.

Gozan no Okuribi (Daimonji)

The locals call it Daimonji, the celebration during the height of the Obon 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.

Summer Sonic Osaka

The twin of Tokyo’s music festival, this event has all the same acts just on different nights.

Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival

A fireworks festival stretching back 30 years, this event takes place on the banks of the Yodo River. The city makes a stunning backdrop for the displays. Arrive well before 6 p.m. as the crowds are so large you might not make it to the viewing areas from the station if you get there any later.

Kameoka Hozugawa River Firework Display

This event is part of the annual peace festival and is known for the beautiful glowing food stalls as much as the fireworks. It takes place on the Hozu River with plenty of free and paid viewing spots in local parks.

Yoshinogawa Fireworks Festival

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.

Miyazu Toro Nagashi Fireworks

An excellent opportunity to explore the Amanohashidate area, this magical evening takes place in Shimasaki Park. 10,000 lanterns will be floated before a display of fireworks. You can see the traditional Miyazu Dance during the day, so we suggest you arrive for the full event.

Kumano Fireworks Taikai

One of the biggest events in the Kansai Region, over 10,000 rockets are launched into the skies above the sea from special boats. Since this means chances of postponement due to bad weather are higher, you might want to be prepared to keep the fallback dates free too!

Kanto events

These are events just outside of Tokyo, including Tochigi, Ibaraki, and the surrounding areas.

Kawaguchiko Lake Fireworks Festival

Enjoy one of Yamanashi’s largest and oldest fireworks festivals on the banks of Lake Kawaguchiko. There are several displays throughout the year, but this one is the biggest.

Hokkaido events

Sapporo Summer Festival

This event covers a whole host of different festivities, including beer gardens, Bon Odori dances, and more. Make the best of this city in the warm summer months before it gets chilly again in winter.

Tōhoku events

These are events in Aomori, Miyagi, and the surrounding areas.

Aomori Nebuta Festival

This festival, which Aomori is most famous for, takes place in towns and cities across the Tsugaru Plain during the week of August 2 to August 7. The main procession of the festival consists of large internally lit floats depicting kabuki scenes that are wheeled around wildly from side to side.

Akita Kanto Festival

Festival performers balance kanto (poles which are approximately 15-meters long and from which hang 46 lanterns) on their foreheads or lower backs while walking the parade route. They are accompanied by bands of bamboo flute players and are urged on by the spectators.

Sendai Tanabata

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.

Shakado River Fireworks Festival

Each year, 300,000 residents of Fukushima and beyond line the banks of the Shakado River in Sukagawa City for the prefecture’s largest fireworks festival.

Omagari Fireworks Festival

An incredible 760,000 spectators are expected for one of the Tohoku region’s biggest fireworks festivals. This event is a national contest — fireworks teams from throughout the country compete with each other to put on the best show.

Hiroshima events

These are events in Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, and the surrounding areas.

Hiroshima Toro Nagashi

In a service of remembrance for deceased ancestors, and as a wish for world peace, thousands of lanterns are set afloat on the Mototyasu River next to the A-bomb Dome. You can buy lanterns and release them in the evening, although it may take a while for your turn to come up.

Chūbu events

These are events in Nagano, Aichi, Fukui, Shizuoka, Yamanashi, and surrounding areas.

Earth Celebration

Every year since 1988, the rich natural splendor of Sado has set the stage for Earth Celebration (EC), an international arts festival that seeks an alternative global culture through musical and cultural collaborations with artists from around the world.

Domanaka Matsuri

The Nippon Domannaka Festival is the largest team dance festival in the Chūbu region of central Japan. Having 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.

Gifu Nagara River Fireworks Festival

What was once two festivals (Nagara River Chunichi Fireworks Festival and Nagaragawa National Fireworks Festival) held one week apart have — perhaps sensibly — joined forces to become the Gifu Nagara River Fireworks Festival.

The Nagaoka Fireworks Festival

The Nagaoka Festival is held around the Shinano River in Nagaoka City. Its main attractions are the portable shrine parades and folk dance processions during the day — with large-scale fireworks displays in the evening on both days.

Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival

An incredible 40,000 fireworks go up in smoke at this mid-summer fireworks festival. The main viewing area is in Suwa City, which is easily reached from Matsumoto — prepare for crowds and plan your route home in advance.

Shikoku events

Tokushima Awa Odori Festival

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.

Kyūshū & Okinawa events

The Hinokuni Festival

The festival will feature various dance troupes and competitions as well as a “Natsu Machi Yokocho” (summer town drinking alley).

The Chikugogawa Fireworks Festival

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.

Kanmon Straights Fireworks Festival

More than 1 million people on both sides of the strait are expected to watch the almost hour-long show in which 15,000 projectiles will be hurled into the night sky.

Shoro Nagashi Lantern Floating Festival

This night marks the final night of the Bon festival — a traditional period where the spirits of the dead come back to visit relatives. Those who have lost loved ones in the past year build shorobune boats decked with flowers and lanterns. They are then paraded through the streets before being destroyed at the end of the parade. This is a serious festival, so remain respectful if attending.

Hitoyoshi Fireworks Festival

Taking place at the riverside in Nakagawahara Park in Hitoyoshi City, this fireworks festival is expecting roughly 55,000 åpeople to attend to ooh and ah at 5,000 pyrotechnics.

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