At the heart of most Japanese festival traditions is a celebratory parade. Nearby townsfolk and village people will flock to neighbouring cities to watch performers, dancers, musicians and floats take to the streets during the summer months.
As well as bringing the community together, Japan’s summer events are a fantastic opportunity for tourists to get involved and immerse themselves in the summertime culture of this creative and diverse country.
How to get there
Planning your trip may seem like a huge task but it doesn’t have to be. All Nippon Airways have created a handy Trip Planner so you can book and manage your connecting flights and fly to Japan with ease. They have flights to Japan from many larger worldwide cities so check the website for more information. If you’re not a fan of flying you can always buy a Japan Rail Pass starting from 7 days travel around the country.
Otaue Rice Planting Festival
On 14th June in the centre of Osaka City, you will find the glorious parade of the ancient rice harvest.
Traditionally, Japanese rice paddies were tilled by oxen; a scene which will be recreated across the city in June. Surrounding the transported seedlings are colourful dances and song performances believed to enhance the quality and life of the grains. Finally, whilst the seeds are replanted into paddies, women sing to appease Mother Earth and bring good fortune to the crops. The prayers and efforts of parade attendees will contribute to a successful autumn yield and a separate ceremony is held on 23th November to thank the earth for a generous crop.
Chagu Chagu Umako Horse Festival
On the second Saturday in June at Takizawa-mura over 100 decorated horses will walk 15km through the city to the sound of jingling bells. Before being led to Morioka City, the horses are adorned with wolf-deterring bells that create a “Chagu Chagu” sound recently incorporated into the name of the festival. The celebration is to reward horses for their hard working during the rice planting season.
Gion Matsuri Festival
From 1st-29th July, the Gion Matsuri festival takes over the whole of Yasaka-jinja Shrine in Kyoto city. The main event takes place on the 17th when 30 pageant floats (yamaboko) parade around the main city to delight the crowds of onlookers. These two-tiered yamaboko are around 6-7 metres tall and crammed with children and musicians and decorated with a multitude of fabrics, sculptures and bright-coloured textiles. Be sure to listen out for the Gion-bayashi festive music playing throughout the occasion!
We hope you have a wonderful time watching the Japanese summertime festivals and return in the winter to see more exciting traditions relived.