Japan has a polite and reserved culture, but it also likes its festivals and parties. ?Summer in Japan is like one huge party as there are so many festivals, local ones, ones that are celebrated throughout a prefecture and so on.
Summer Festivals (Natsu Matsuri) in Japan
Summer festivals in Japan are called “natsu matsuri.” ?It is said that one can almost always find a natsu matsuri during the summer, be it local, one celebrated throughout the prefecture or a national one. ?Some of the festivals are sponsored by local shrines or temples, while others are more secular in nature.
What are the major natsu matsuri in Japan?
Some of the more famous and larger natsu matsuri include Aomori Nebuta in Aomori prefecture, Kiryu Yagi in Gunma prefecture, Bon festival, the Yokohama port opening festival, the Sumidagawa Festival and many more. ?The Aomori Nebuta is one of the largest festivals in Japan and definitely colorful! ?A “nebuta” is a float and this particular one for the Aomori Nebuta is of a warrior figure. ?People carry the float through the city’s center while dancers wearing a special costume dance in time to a chant called Rassera.
The Kiryu Yagi festival in Gunma prefecture is a celebration that combines fireworks, dancing and just a general party atmosphere for three days in August. ?Yagibushi is a type of dancing that is central to the festival with yagibusi bands playing lively music. ?The Kiryu Yagi festival is a combination of many festivals that used to occur during the summer honoring the textile industry (for which Gunma was famous), the Gion Festival, the Tanabata Festival and the Fireworks Festival.
The Bon Festival is a Japanese Buddhist tradition that honors the dead when ?families visit their ancestral homes and visit their ancestor’s graves to clean them and pay respect to their deceased loved ones. ?It is generally celebrated in mid-August and people visit their ancestor’s graves to clean and maintain them. ?Families also visit their ancestral family homes. ?During the matsuri, the Bon Odori, or Bon Dance, is a style of dancing that is performed. ?The dancing style varies from region to region, as well as the music.
The Yokohama Port Opening Festival (Yokohama Kaiko-Sai) celebrates the opening of the Yokohama Port in 1859 to international trade. ?Most of the attractions are held at the main pier, but also at Yokohama Park. ?The cool thing about this festival is that there are water activities–ships sail, there’s a dragon boat competition and fireworks are launched from barges.
Lastly, the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival happens on the last Saturday of July near Asakusa. ?Unlike most fireworks festivals where fireworks are simply pretty to look at, this is an intense competition between pyrotechnic groups who try to outdo each other with the biggest and best fireworks display. ?I can only imagine how awesome this natsu matsuri must be! ?This natsu matsuri’s history dates back to the 1700s and the rival competition began in 1810.
What Japanese enjoy at natsu matsuri??
So what do you do at these matsuri? ?Do they have food? ?What is the atmosphere like? ?Well, all natsu matsuri have yatai, or stalls much like a carnival in the U.S. ?These are stalls that sell souvenirs, food, and have games. ?Most natsu matsuri have fireworks and some form of entertainment, usually involving traditional dance and songs.
What are the most popular yatai?
The most popular yatai are of course ones that sell food, then ones that have activities. ?Below are the top ten most popular yatai:
- Takoyaki (a fried dumpling made with octopus)
- Yakisoba (noodles)
- Okonomiyaki (a cooked pancake topped with a variety of ingredients, such as shrimp and cheese)
- Kakigori (shaved ice with flavored syrup)
- Hot Dog (yes, they really have hot dogs in Japan!!)
- Kushiyaki–Butakushi, Gyuukushi (beef and pork kabobs)
- Kingyo Sukui ?(scooping Goldfish)
- Ikayaki (grilled squid)
- Wata gashi (Cotton Candy)
- Yakimorokoshi (baked corn with soy sauce and butter)
As you can see from the above list, food is definitely the most popular.
Special Clothing for a Natsu Matsuri
Many people will wear special clothing for the natsu matsuri. ?The yukata, or the summer kimono, is very popular. ?The yukata is made from cotton and is light weight, appropriate for the hot summer days, but it is still as beautiful and as elegant as the traditional kimono.