All TopicsNewsCultureJapanese Snacks & CandyFood & DrinkTravelEntertainmentMember Spotlight
TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogWhat is Natsu Matsuri? Summer Events Then and Now

What is Natsu Matsuri? Summer Events Then and Now

By Thuy Fang
July 23, 2022

Summer days in Japan, especially in big cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka, are truly hot. In spite of the scorching heat, many unique and exciting things in Japan are waiting for you to experience them during the summer. You can try a lot, from seasonal cuisine to interesting activities in Japanese summer. One of Japan’s favorite outdoor activities that we can’t forget to mention is definitely “natsu matsuri”.

So what is natsu matsuri? Check out this article to find out what it is and even more amazing things about it. 

What Is Natsu Matsuri?

Many young men wearing traditional Japanese garbs carry a mikoshi (housing for the gods) with a man directing them on top at a Japanese natsu matsuri event.
You can think of the phrase “natsu matsuri” as an umbrella term to describe the many festivals that happen at a specific time in summer. Image via Shutterstock

When translated into English, “natsu” (夏) is summer and “matsuri” (祭 り) is festival, so natsu matsuri can be understood as a summer festival. However, more than the translated meaning, this term refers to various sorts of festivals occurring in regions all across Japan during summer. Some of these festivals are some of Japan’s most famous festivals every year. 

Usually, natsu matsuri events are held between July and August. However, in the case of some September events (in July under the lunar calendar), Japanese people also celebrate them as summer festivals. Either way, did you know that every natsu matsuri has its own meaning and purpose? Let’s learn more about the origin of these summer festivals and see what natsu matsuri is in the eyes of Japanese people. 

Want to experience a bit of that magical Japanese summer festival energy at home? Check out TokyoTreat! TokyoTreat sends amazing Japanese snacks, drinks, noodles, sweets and more right to your door straight from Japan, so you can enjoy a taste of Japan wherever you are!

Check out TokyoTreat!

Origin Of Natsu Matsuri

In the old days, ancient Japanese people organized natsu matsuri for three main reasons. Let’s explore each reason.

Pray For Bountiful Harvests

Far different from the current culture of Japan where only 4% of Japanese people join the field of agriculture, more than 80% of people in Japan did farming jobs in the past. Indeed, agriculture played a very crucial role in ancient Japanese life and conception because it directly affected the survival of contemporary farmers. In other words, without a good crop, it would get really tough for a lot of the community.

To protect crops as well as pray for a bountiful harvest, many festivals are held in summer. For example, in the early summer, the rustic and simple festival “Dengaku” was held during the rice planting season. On top of that, the summer festival named “Mushi Okuri”, which means repelling insects, was also popular in the past. 

Japanese women wearing traditional festival wear pose during the Awa Odori dance, a summer festival that involves traditional Japanese style dancing.
Many summer festivals incorporate some kind of traditional dance into the event. The Awa Odori is one of the most famous. Image via Shutterstock

Worship And Honor Spirits and Gods

Ancient Japanese people always believed that natural disasters in summer, like floods or droughts, came from the rage of vengeful ghosts or spirits belonging to ancient Japanese royalty. So, several natsu matsuri have taken place annually up to now, such as the famous Tenjin festival and the Bon festival, in order to calm down angry spirits and souls or to even to help them move on. 

Preventing Disease

In Heian-kyo (former name of the ancient capital Kyoto), due to a high population in such a small area as well as ineffective sewage drainage, epidemics often occurred during the summer.

However, similar to the cause of natural disasters, the ancient Japanese also assumed that those diseases were caused by evil spirits. As a ritual ceremony to satisfy these spirits, the Gion festival, one of the most famous festivals in Japan, has been held since the beginning of the 9th century.

Men in traditional Japanese garb pull a very large float with people on top at a Japanese natsu matsuri event called Gion Festival in Kyoto.
Many summer festivals include the pulling of elaborate floats, with no cars or motors to be seen. Image via Shutterstock

Today’s Natsu Matsuri

Nowadays, most summer festivals are organized in Japan for multiple reasons besides the traditional Japanese reasonings. Actually, today’s natsu matsuri is a chance for Japanese people to hang out with family and friends, relieve stress from work, or even make new friends. Even better, natsu matsuri are also used as events to attract foreign visitors and promote Japanese tourism while showing off the local culture. 

Like we mentioned before, they happen all over Japan at different times, and no two festivals are completely the same. The Gion Festival we mentioned earlier has different versions depending on the area, with the Kyoto one being the most famous. One festival may feature beautiful traditional dances by the sea, while the next town over may show off traditional Japanese floats. The variety is truly amazing.

A young woman stands in a yukata, a summer kimono, in a line for food at a Japanese natsu matsuri event with other young women in yukatas.
You can’t have natsu matsuri without plenty of people, young and old, wearing amazing yukatas (traditional Japanese summer robes). Image via Shutterstock

While joining natsu matsuri, you’ll easily find plenty of amusing activities. Many Japanese summer festivals end with fireworks, so you can enjoy Japanese fireworks festivals all across the country. There are also plenty of stalls where you can play traditional Japanese festival games. Of course, how can we not mention the yatai (Japanese food stalls) where you can enjoy tasty Japanese street food and snacks?, 

We hope you found the answer to some of your natsu matsuri questions and eve more interesting information about it! Do you have anything like a summer festival in your area? Let us know in the comments below!

Enjoy Delicious Japanese Candy And Snacks Every Month!

Starting from $32.50 USD
Get TokyoTreat
Author avatar
Thuy Fang

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enjoy Delicious Japanese Candy And Snacks Every Month!

Starting from $32.50 USD
Get TokyoTreat

Related Articles

Three Lesser Known Shonen Anime Protagonists

August 16, 2022

Who comes to your mind when you think of shonen protagonists? Maybe it’s iconic shonen protagonists such as Son Goku from Dragon Ball, Izuku “Deku” Midoriya from My Hero Academia and Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto. But what about the lesser-known shonen heroes who win cooking competitions, raise farm animals, or even take care of baby demons? Read more to find out about these awesome characters and their most notable moments!

Five Places to Eat Omurice, Japan’s Comfort Food

August 10, 2022

Omurice (オムライス) is a popular Japanese comfort food, made of fried rice and eggs!  It’s a mainstay in both convenience stores and Japanese restaurants, from Tokyo and Chiba, all the way to Kyoto.  In the past, we here at Tokyo Treat showed you a quick and easy recipe on how to make omurice. Continue reading…

Japanese Festival Games For Fun Summer Prizes

July 29, 2022

Summer in Japan becomes much more than just a hot season thanks to a variety of cultural activities. One of them is playing traditional games with friends and family at a summer festival

Ringo Ame and Other Japanese Festival Sweets

July 27, 2022

There’s a lot to enjoy at a Japanese summer festival – fireworks, traditional games, and of course, we can’t miss out on festival food!

Japanese Fireworks Festivals: Then and Now

July 20, 2022

No other country knows how to celebrate the changing of seasons like Japan. Just like hanami festivals, in spring, Japan also has a way of embracing hot summers: firework festivals.


Be a TokyoTreat Insider!

Join our newsletter and receive tasty news and deals!



Accepted Payments
Visa payment availableMastercard payment availableAmerican Express payment availableDiscover payment availablePayPal payment available


Be a TokyoTreat Insider!

Join our newsletter and receive tasty news and deals!


Copyright © 2022 TokyoTreat™. All Rights Reserved.
Accepted Payments
Visa payment availableMastercard payment availableAmerican Express payment availableDiscover payment availablePayPal payment available