8 Unique Japanese Summer Festivals

Introducing 8 one-of-a-kind festivals across Japan. Beat the heat and enjoy the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of traditional Japan at these unusual celebrations!

8 Unique Japanese Summer Festivals

Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture - Wakasa Road, Chizu Road, and Sendai Kawara Public Sports Grounds

"Shan Shan Matsuri"(Umbrella Festival)

Date
2016/8/14

This singular event, featuring a dancing parade of over 4,000 umbrella-wielding townspeople, emerged from the "Inaba Umbrella Dance “of eastern Tottori Prefecture. The name 'shan-shan' is based on onomatopoeia for both the sound of a bell ringing and the sound of boiling water (a sound often heard at Tottori’s many hot springs!) The sight of thousands of vivid, swirling colors and sound of jingling bells is truly spectacular.

Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture - Kitakami River (upstream from the Meiji Bridge, on both sides of the riverbank)

"Morioka Funekko Nagashii"

Date
2016/8/16

Dewa Sanzan refers to three sacred mountains in Yamagata Prefecture, each with a shrine near its peak. The mountains were first opened as religious centers in 593 by Prince Hachiko. Every year on hassaku (August 1 on the lunar calendar) at 10pm, after practitioners make their yearly reports to Prince Hachiko, an altar in front of the shrine is set ablaze - an invitation for the gods to grace the pilgrims with their presence. Afterwards, at the Sanjin Gasaiden, the Tanomo Festival is observed at midnight, with prayers offered for the health of rice crops against typhoons.

Uwajima City, Ehime Prefecture - Kisaiya Road and Ushi-oni Street

"Uwajima Ushi-oni Matsuri" (Bull Demon Festival)

Date
2016/7/22-24

Shikoku's Ehime Prefecture, famed for its bullfighting, hosts the one-of-a-kind Bull Demon festival every July. Local youths parade down the street carrying large bull floats covered with red cloth or palm hemp. The floats are made of a bamboo frame with a long wooden log for the neck, a demon face mask and a tail in the shape of sword. Children accompany the parade playing small bamboo flutes known as "Bu-yare". The bull demon's long neck stretches into nearby houses, driving away evil spirits.

Noshiro, Akita Prefecture - intersection at Noshiro City Hall, intersection at Shonanmachi

"Tenku-no-Fuyajo"

Date
2016/8/3-4

This festival, called literally "nightless city in the sky," features gigantic castle-shaped lanterns paraded through the city accompanied by traditional flutes and taiko drums. The "Tenku-no-Fuyajo" tradition actually began in the 1800s, and today's floats are based on photos and descriptions of the originals. In 2014 the biggest lantern reached a whopping 23.5 meters, the largest of its kind in Japan.

Numanamae Shrine, 1225 Tomochou-ushiroji, Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture

Otebi Fire Festival

Otebi Fire Festival
Otebi Fire Festival
Date
2016/7/9

Young men haul loads of burning torches on their back to make a grand pyre at Nunakuma Shrine, bravely bearing the heat during the lengthy trek. Pilgrims to the shrine then light their own torches from the sacred flame and bring it back to their homes, where they pray for the safety of their families and use the torch as a talisman to ward off evil. The young devotees haul as much as 150 kilogram worth of burning fuel on their backs - quite a spectacle to behold!

Notojima Kouda-machi, Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture

Notojima Kouda Fire Festival

Notojima Kouda Fire Festival
Date
2016/7/30

This festival celebrates the legend of the god Iyahiko and the goddess Iyahime, who can only meet once a year. Men carry a portable shrine along with 7 kirikos (huge paper lanterns which are 4 to 15 meters high) from Iyahima Shrine to the sacred site at Sakiyama, where a huge pyre is ignited with thrown torches. People tell fortunes and predict the harvest according to the direction of the torches when they fall.

Sugahara Shrine - Nishikawakita, Ebino, Miyazaki Prefecture

"Ushigoe Matsuri" (Cow Jumping Festival)

Date
2016/7/28

A festival to wish for the sound health of local cows at the end of a bountiful farming season. Inside the shrine grounds, a large log 25 centimeters in diameter and 4 meters in height is raised to height of 50cm. Festively dressed calves are led by their owners as they leap over the log. "Ushigoe," meaning, "cow passes over," is a homonym for "fattened calf".

Dewa Sanzan Shrine - 7 Tamuke, Tamuke-aza, Haguro-chou, Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture

Hassaku Festival

Hassaku Festival
Date
2016/8/31-9/1

Dewa Sanzan refers to three sacred mountains in Yamagata Prefecture, each with a shrine near its peak. The mountains were first opened as religious centers in 593 by Prince Hachiko. Every year on hassaku (August 1 on the lunar calendar) at 10pm, after practitioners make their yearly reports to Prince Hachiko, an altar in front of the shrine is set ablaze - an invitation for the gods to grace the pilgrims with their presence. Afterwards, at the Sanjin Gasaiden, the Tanomo Festival is observed at midnight, with prayers offered for the health of rice crops against typhoons.

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