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

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

Kansai events

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

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 Tenmanbashi Bridge and sail up river. 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.

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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 are 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.

Minato Maizuru Chatta Festival

This annual 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 firework competition takes place. Pyrotechnicians from across the country will compete to create the best displays, with the festival being one 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) processioning through a straw-rope ring wearing Muromachi period costumes.

The Japan International Birdman Rally

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

Kihoku Lantern Festival

During 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 are 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. Originally 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.

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

Set up along the Toyohira River for Hokkaido’s most popular fireworks show. Four-thousand 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 ar 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 are started 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.

Grand Sumo Tournament

This July is host to one of the six major basho (tournaments) that take place in Japan each year. For 15 days, see the iconic Japanese battle play out in Nagoya. General seating starts at ¥2,900 for adults and tickets are sold at the arena from 7:45 am (and sometimes earlier) on the day.

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 the Nagoya Port with a display of 3,000 fireworks.

Kiso Mikoshi Festival

Photo by Kiso Tourist Office

This festival add 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 which have been deemed an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

Kyūshū & Okinawa events

Hakata Gion Yamakasa

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

Corona Sunsets Festival

A music festival with a laid-back atmosphere, this event runs for two days on a sandy beach in Okinawa. Headliners in the past have included Jose Gonzalez, Amp Fiddler and Naoki Serizawa, plus Terrace House star Eden Kai.

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 events has fireworks on both nights and is situated in one of the prettiest harbors in Japan too! There are 7,000 rockets on the first night and 3,000 on the second night, so keep that in mind if choosing between the two!

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