Summertime is the best time for festival culture in Japan — from parades to period costumes, fireworks, port festivals, and much more.

For events in Tokyo and the surrounding area, head over to our event listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

Kansai events

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

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Tenjin Festival

One of Japan’s top three festivals, the Tenjin Matsuri starts off with a procession of 3,000 people dressed in the style of courtiers of the 8th to 12th centuries, after which the participants get on boats at Tenmabashi Bridge and sail upriver. As the sun sets, fires are lit on board the vessels, creating a spectacle for those on the banks. The festival ends with a fireworks display.

Gion Festival

Gion Matsuri
Photo by iStock.com/gyro

The Gion Matsuri is a month-long festival that takes place in Kyoto in July each year. The biggest draw is the parades (called Yamaboko Junkō).

Nijō Castle NAKED Summer Festival

Similar to the spring event held at Nijō Castle, there will be projection mapping, illuminations, and explanations in five languages. There will be a summer theme throughout, with virtual fireworks and traditional festival food stalls.

Aizen Festival

One of the three big Osaka festivals, the Aizen Matsuri features a beautiful young lady being hoisted in the air and paraded around Aizendo Temple.

Minato Maizuru Chatta Festival

This annual Kyoto festival ends with a huge fireworks display launched from a ship floating in the bay. You can watch from the beach and enjoy the offerings of the many food stalls and performances during the weekend.

Ise Shrine Dedication Fireworks Festival

The Miyakawa River will once again be illuminated by over 10,000 fireworks as the annual fireworks competition takes place. Pyrotechnicians from across the country will compete to create the best displays, with the festival being one of the three largest in Japan.

Sumiyoshi Festival

The highlight of this three-day festival is the nagoshi harai shinji ritual where participants (women and children) make a procession through a straw-rope ring wearing Muromachi-period costumes.

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The Japan International Birdman Rally

In one of Japan’s more unique festivals, participants (or “bird men”) attempt to fly as far as possible into the lake with the help of human-powered flying machines.

Kihoku Lantern Festival

In the late afternoon, an elaborate floating lantern is set afloat in the harbor, and in the evening, a huge fireworks display is put on. Nicknamed the saiun kujaku (rainbow peacock), it’s a sight to behold.

Kuwana Suigo Fireworks Festival

Celebrating the completion of the Ise Bridge in 1934, this fireworks festival sees the launch of over 10,000 rockets in an incredible display. There is a combination of over and underwater fireworks including Niagara Falls and star mines.

Minato Matsuri Fireworks Display

Using the city lights as the perfect backdrop, over 3,000 fireworks will be launched in Wakayama. Created to pray for the port’s safety and to bring visitors to the area, the festival grows in popularity every year.

Shirahama Fireworks Festival

Another fantastic fireworks festival set in the bay at this popular beach in Wakayama. Running since 1948, fireworks will be launched over a period of days in front of beautiful Shirahama Beach, as well as during the main event on August 10.

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Hokkaido events

Sapporo Summer Festival

An umbrella event with lots of smaller different celebrations and festivals, this is a great time to be in the city. There’s a huge beer garden, a traditional Bon Odori festival, and much more.

Doshin/UHB Fireworks Festival

Get set up along the Toyohira River for Hokkaido’s most popular fireworks show. 4,000 fireworks will illuminate the Sapporo night sky.

Tōhoku events

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

Kuroishi Neputa Festival

One of the smaller Neputa festivals of northern Japan, this is nonetheless a stunning display of huge lanterns. The main days are the 30th and 2nd when the 50 floats gather together.

Hiroshima events

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

Yamaguchi Gion Matsuri

Yamaguchi was modeled after Kyoto and this festival is a testament to their bond. The festivities kick off with the traditional local Dance of the Heron, deemed a Folk Cultural Property.

Chūbu events

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

Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament

This July is host to one of the six major basho (sumo tournaments) that take place in Japan each year. For 15 days, see the iconic battle play out in Nagoya.

Ito Matsukawa River Tub Riding Race

Rub-a-dub-dub, many men and ladies in a tub. The Matsukawa River Tub Race takes place in Ito along the Izu Peninsula and sees individuals and teams race down the river in washtubs.

Kawaguchiko Lavender Herb Festival

This is the time of year when the town of Fujikawaguchiko gets a brush of purple over its landscape. Taking place in Oishi Park on the north side of Lake Kawaguchi, this event boasts 100,000 lavender across town. Take advantage of the many stalls and lavender-flavored ice cream.

Nagoya Port Fireworks Festival

Enjoy a quaint and colorful evening along Nagoya Port with a display of 3,000 fireworks.

Kiso Mikoshi Festival

Photo by Kiso Tourist Office

This Nagano festival adds its own twist (quite literally) to the traditional mikoshi parades of festivals elsewhere in Japan. As the 375 kg portable shrines are carried through the streets, the men flip them as they go.

Ono-Hiyoshi Shrine Sanno Festival

Held to welcome summer, this two-day festival features highlights like demon payment day and a lion dance, with unusual costumes and performances that have been deemed an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

Kyūshū & Okinawa events

Hakata Gion Yamakasa

Join one million spectators as men race elaborately decorated floats (weighing in at 1 ton!) at this festival whose history goes back 750 years.

Tobata Gion Yamagasa Festival

A festival that dates back over 200 years, this event features the carrying of tall floats (the yamagasa) which are adorned with lanterns at night. It’s a really impressive sight and has been recognized as an Intangible Cultural Asset.

Beppu Fire and Sea Festival

A three-day festival with all the perks of food stalls, performances, markets and culminating in one of the biggest fireworks displays in Kyushu!

Hita Gion Festival

A local Gion festival which is billed as one of the top three annual festivals in Kyushu. Expect large mikoshi (portable shrines) to parade through narrow streets and a great atmosphere.

Nagasaki Port Festival

This summer event has fireworks on both nights and is situated in one of the prettiest harbors in Japan too. There are 5,000 rockets on the first night and 3,000 on the second night, so keep that in mind if choosing between the two.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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Filed under: Things to Do

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