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A woman dressed in a blue yukata looking at Tanabata streamers
A woman dressed in a blue yukata looking at Tanabata streamers

The Ultimate Guide to Summer Festivals in Japan!

Linh LeLinh Le
Published Time
Posted on September 26, 2022

Summer festivals in Japan offers many ways to enjoy the warm weather holding a variety of events and amusing activities! If you have never experienced a Japanese summer matsuri, here is a quick look to guide you through what to expect and how to make the most out of it!

What is Natsu Matsuri?

Natsu matsuri is a common term that describes all kinds of festivals occurring across Japan in the summer. Nowadays, we mostly acknowledge summer festivals as an occasion to have a good time with friends, families and loved ones. 

Two women dressed in yukata buying food from a stall at a summer festival in Japan.
Summer festivals in Japan are very fun! Image via Shutterstock

However, these festivals all have a long history dating from the old times such as Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri, Aomori prefecture’s Nebuta festival, Awa-Odori in Shikoku, and more. We bet hardly you would know about the traditional and cultural reasons for celebrating them. Discover more about natsu matsuri’s origin here!

Make Your Wish at the Tanabata Festival!

A star of Japanese traditional festivals must be mentioned is Tanabata, also known as Hoshimatsuri – Star festival, celebrated on July 7th on the lunar calendar every year.

The tale behind it is a sad but beautiful story based on an ancient Chinese legend. It tells the story of Orihime and Hikoboshi, the star-crossed lovers who can only see each other once a year, on the 7th day of 7th month. Want to learn more about Tanabata and its backstory? Check out our article about Tanabata!

Elaborate and colorful Tanabata (Star Festival) streamers hanging in the street at night. Tanabata is one of the most famous summer festivals in Japan.
Tanabata is also known as the “Festival of Stars”. Image via Shutterstock

In preparation for this iconic summer festival, people hang tanzaku (colorful strips of paper) on bamboo branches! Afterwards, they place them in public areas! You can find them at train stations, shopping centers, and especially in Japanese homes!

People usually celebrate this day by writing down their wishes or sometimes in the form of poetry on the tanzaku. On the next day, the bamboo branches and tanzaku will be set afloat on a river or burned down. 

Summer is about to come to an end but if you still want to enjoy a bit of Japanese summer taste, check TokyoTreat out! TokyoTreat sends seasonal Japanese snacks, drinks, sweets, and more right from Japan to your door every month, so you can enjoy all the best Japanese snacks and drinks at your convenience!

Light Up the Summer Sky at the Firework Festival!

If hanami (cherry blossom viewing festival) is how people enjoy the beauty of spring, then firework festival is for enjoying the summer season!

Thanks to firework technology in Japan, fireworks here take forms in many different shapes, styles and colors. They go along well with music based on a certain theme depending on the region.

Beautiful fireworks lighting up a night sky.
Everyone enjoys fireworks on summer nigths! Image via Shutterstock

Many people in Japan anticipate these firework festivals every year. If you’ve already missed the firework festival season this year, check out our article to down some of the most famous firework festivals for your next year summer trip to Japan!

Have Fun with Traditional Games!

Summer festivals are all about having a fun time with your family, friends and loved ones. Since the air on a summer night is just so fresh and nice enough to move your body a little bit, many traditional festival games are also held in sections for everyone to challenge your skills and win a summer prize! 

Someone scooping goldfish into a bowl.
Goldfish scooping is one of many traditional summer festival games. Image via Shutterstock

Goldfish scooping, super ball scooping, and many more fun games are definitely one of the spotlights of summer festivals. If you want to know more, we have a short introduction to these games so check out our Japanese Festival Games for Fun Summer Prizes article!

Fill Your Stomach with Yatai Food!

Yatai food or Japanese street food is also one of the most appealing points of attending a summer festival. While watching fireworks, locals often grab a glass of beer and enjoy the delicious street vendor food at these events!

All the best yatai food such as takoyaki (octopus dumplings), yakisoba (stir-fried noodles), ikayaki (grilled squid) and a lot more are always ready to be served.

A person making ikayaki (grilled squid) outside at a summer festival.
Ikayaki (grilled squid) is just one of many kinds of yatai food you can enjoy! Image via Shutterstock

It is not only about enjoying the freshly cooked taste of the food, but watching the talented vendors prepare the food is also a fun experience. Take a look at Japanese Yatai: Festival Food On Wheels to learn more!

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Festival Sweets!

After touring around the tasty Japanese vendor food, we hope you take a chance to satisfy your sweet tooth! Japanese festival sweets are very popular at summer festivals!

Not only children but also adults, you can always find your favorite sweet here from ringo ame, cotton candy, choco banana to taiyaki, crepes,… Discover the sweet paradise at the Japanese summer festival with us at Ringo Ame and Other Japanese Festival Sweets!

Chocolate-dipped bananas (choco banana) with spinkles on top. This desserts is a staple of summer festivals in Japan!
Look at all these choco bananas! Image via Shutterstock

Spectacular firework performances, fun games with tasty food are all what make summer festivals one of the most anticipated events of a year.

Have you been to a summer festival in Japan? Share with us your most memorable experience in the comment below!

Summer festivals in Japan are one of the biggest traditional but lively events that most locals love to see. We hope you liked our guide to summer festivals to plan for your next summer trip to Japan!

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