This vibrant celebration of Nagasaki’s multicultural history is the event in the area’s autumn calendar. Dating back nearly 400 years, the Kunchi Festival is three days long and draws in pretty much the whole city. Over 59 Nagasaki neighborhood dance groups are involved, with five or six performing dashimono dances each year. Floats—jaodori dragons, shishi lions, takara-bune, and Chinese and Dutch ships—are paraded around the city by the odoricho groups. The Nagasaki Kunchi Festival has been made an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
Be prepared for an early start: the Nagasaki Kunchi’s popularity makes it difficult to get a good spot for viewing the dances, which begin as early as 7am. Admission is technically free, but the four main venues have paid seating for the dance performances. These tickets are sold out months in advance (making it difficult for tourists to get hold of them) but there are free viewing spots, including Chuo Park and the plaza at Nagasaki Station. It’s also possible to catch the odoricho parades throughout Nagasaki, and you can groove on the carnival atmosphere almost anywhere.
The main Kunchi Festival venue is Suwa Shrine, a short walk from the Suwa Jinja-mae streetcar stop; other venues are the Otabijo stage in central Nagasaki (where you will also find street stalls), Yasaka Shrine, and the Kokaidomae Plaza. To make the most of the parades and get a good dose of the atmosphere, try to travel around between them all! The weather is usually mild, but it’s always a good idea to take a hat and sunglasses, and something warm for the evenings. Note that drones and parasols/umbrellas are not allowed in.