Experience a different dimension of Japanese culture by immersing yourself in the vibrant, lively, and colourful festivities that light up the nation during August. These cultural celebrations offer an enchanting blend of age-old traditions, epic parades, and magical fireworks, ensuring an unforgettable experience for every traveller planning to discover Japan by train.
So, don your yukata and join the locals in these captivating festivals that are quintessentially Japanese.
Aomori Nebuta Festival – August 2 to August 7
Image Credit: Aomori Tourism
One of the most dynamic festivals in Japan, the Aomori Nebuta Festival takes place in early August in Aomori City. This festival is known for its colossal float displays featuring colourful and dramatic depictions of samurai and mythological figures, illuminated from within to light up the city streets at night. Therefore, with traditional music and the hypnotic chant of “Rassera, Rassera,” this grand spectacle promises an electrifying atmosphere.
Akita Kanto Festival – August 3 to August 6
Image Credit: Oh Matsuri
Held in Akita City, the Akita Kanto Festival is a spectacle of balance and grace. Participants parade through the streets balancing towering bamboo poles adorned with lanterns, representing ears of rice, on their hips, shoulders, and foreheads. This festival, held at the beginning of August, is a prayer for a good harvest and a remarkable sight that attracts crowds of both locals and visitors.
Hanagasa Festival in Yamagata – August 5 to August 7
Held in Yamagata City, this festival is renowned for its enchanting parade where participants, adorned in traditional outfits, dance through the city streets carrying hanagasa, or flower-adorned hats, in rhythmic movements.
Image Credit: Japan Tourism
The grand finale on the last night features a stunning spectacle of dancers creating dynamic formations. Moreover culminating in a vivid display of local culture and communal spirit.
Tanabata Matsuri – August 6 to August 8
Dive into the magical world of star-crossed lovers at the Tanabata Matsuri held in Sendai. This festival, also known as the Star Festival, celebrates the once-a-year meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair, respectively.
Image Credit: Japan Travel
Sendai’s version of Tanabata is the most famous in Japan, with the city’s streets adorned with elaborate, brightly coloured streamers. The festival also culminates in a grand firework display on the last day.
Yosakoi Festival in Kochi – August 9 to August 12
Image Credit: Visit Kochi Japan
This festival celebrates a unique style of dance called ‘Yosakoi’, characterised by energetic movements and colourful costumes. Thousands of dancers from all across Japan, brandishing naruko (hand-held wooden clappers), take to the streets in teams to perform their original choreographies.
Their vigorous and joyous performances, accompanied by traditional and contemporary music, create a contagious and invigorating atmosphere that embodies the vibrant spirit of the Japanese summer.
Awa Odori in Tokushima – August 12 to August 15
Image Credit: Tama Tourism
Experience the thrilling rhythms and infectious energy of the Awa Odori, held in Tokushima Prefecture. Translated as the ‘Awa Dance’, this celebration is known as the largest dance festival in Japan.
Groups of choreographed dancers and musicians, known as ‘ren’, parade through the streets, their traditional costumes adding an extra splash of colour to the lively event. Spectators can also dance alongside the performers during some of the festivities
Gozan Okuribi – August 16
Image Credit: Discover Kyoto
Kyoto’s Gozan Okuribi festival, also known as Daimonji, concludes the Buddhist Obon period when ancestral spirits are believed to return to this world. Five giant bonfires are lit on Kyoto’s surrounding mountains, creating a serene and profoundly spiritual sight.
Earth Celebration in Sado – August 18 to August 20
For a unique and enriching experience, head to Sado Island in Niigata for the Earth Celebration. Hosted by Kodo, one of the world’s foremost taiko drumming groups, this festival showcases their soul-stirring performances and offers workshops where you can try your hand at this traditional art form.
The festival also highlights international music and art collaborations, fostering a sense of global community. Set amidst the breathtaking natural beauty of Sado, the Earth Celebration is a rhythmic retreat you wouldn’t want to miss. In conclusion, Japan’s festive spirit is in full bloom in August, bringing together communities and offering visitors an exciting, immersive cultural experience. These festivals, with their vibrant parades, traditional dances, and dazzling firework displays, are the heartbeat of the country during the warm summer nights.
Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in these mesmerizing August celebrations that truly embody the soul of Japan.