Natsu Matsuri (IV): Japanese Summer Festival
In Japanese, Natsu Matsuri (夏祭り) is a collective term that refers to all the festivals held from early July to late August. Normally, some festivals held in June and September can also be regarded as a summer festivals. Every year, there are hundreds of summer festivals nationwide. In the last two articles, the six most famous festivals have been introduced: the three greatest Natsu Matsuri and the three great festivals of Tohoku. This article is for the big fans of Japanese culture who love exploring all the special things!
Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival
Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival, established in 1732, is the oldest fireworks festival in the world. There are many speculations about its origins, including praying for the end of the famine, warding off evil spirits, appeasing the gods of water, and honoring the dead. If there is no weather issue, it is normally held on the last Saturday of July each year in Tokyo’s old town, Sumidagawa. Firework companies compete to show their best work, and new types of fireworks often debut at the festival. It attracts millions of spectators every year, who gather at the best viewing spot, the river bank.
Awa Odori Matsuri
Awa Odori Matsuri, which means Tokushima Dance Festival, is the largest dance festival in Japan. It began in 1587 as part of the Bon Festival, a festival to honor the spirits of the ancestors. Awa Odori Matsuri takes place from August 12 to 15, attracting thousands of spectators to Tokushima to watch the grand performance. The Awa dance is characterized by its randomness, liveliness, and strong flow. Dancers are dressed in traditional festival costumes and perform in the street along with the beat of drums, gongs, shamisen, and flutes.
Soma Nomaoi Festival
If you're tired of songs, dances, and parades and want to have some wilder ones, Soma Namaoi (wild horse chase) Festival might be your cup of tea. It takes place on the last Saturday of July and lasts for three days. It is a celebration of the horse breeding heritage in Soma, at which you can see 12 samurai horsemen, dressed in armor, and helmets and carrying samurai swords, racing 1,000 meters. Another exciting event is Shinki Soudatsusen, where hundreds of samurai riders compete for 40 shrine flags shot into the sky by fireworks.
Hachiman Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s three most famous festivals Tokyo. The mikoshi (portable shrine) of Sakurayama Hachimangu shrine, clad in gold phoenixes and gorgeous carvings, will be relocated every three years, therefore, Hachiman Matsuri is held once every three years in Fukagawa. During the festival, people carry the phoenix mikoshi and mikoshi of 120 towns down the street. The crowd will splash water over mikoshi carriers, a symbol of removing bad lucks. This is the reason why Hachiman Matsuri is also called the “Water Splashing Festival”.
Yosakoi Matsuri is held from August 9 to 12 in Kochi. It is a vibrant festival where dancers dance in their hands with naruko (small wooden clappers). Nowadays, Yosakoi Matsuri is not merely about traditional music - you can even hear rock music and Latino music!
Hakata Gion Yamakasa is held from July 1 to 15 in Hakata, Fukuoka. There are two different types of floats at this festival. The larger float is kazariyama, which is more than ten meters high and weighs more than two tons. They used to run through the streets in the past and are only used as decorative floats nowadays because of the limited height of electric power lines. Smaller and portable floats are called kakiyama, which are about 5 meters tall and weighing 1 ton, used as competition floats. In the early hours of the festival's final day, seven districts compete to drive the beautifully decorated festival floats along a five-kilometer route through the city. They compete in five-minute intervals to see which neighborhood takes the shortest time.