• Kazuko Lillie

Famous Festivals - Wasshoi Wednesday #5

As we mentioned in last week's Wasshoi Wednesday, summertime is festival time in Japan! Obviously this year will look very different, with festivals across the country being postponed or canceled. However, today we'd like to celebrate some of the most well known July matsuri that have drawn crowds from for many years and are the source of tradition and pride in towns all over Japan. The ones listed here are just the tip of the iceberg of annual celebrations that bring together the people of their respective cities, as well as thousands of visitors from around the country and the world.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa (Hakata Ward, Fukuoka Prefecture)

This festival in the city of Fukuoka, on the northern part of Kyushu Island, is celebrated

from July 1st to the 15th. Hakata was its own city until merging with the prefecture capital, Fukuoka City, almost 150 years ago. The festival itself is said to have been happening for almost 770 years! It is famous for the Kakiyama, enormous decorative floats that weigh around one ton, that is carried around the city. The main event is the Oiyama, a race with the floats between the historical seven districts of Hakata.

Gion Matsuri (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture)

Touted as one of the most famous matsuri in Japan, this festival takes place from July 17th to the 24th. It is considered one of the top three festivals both in Kyoto City and all of Japan, taking up most of the downtown area and closing the streets to traffic in the nights leading up to the parades. Some private residences in the old merchant district open their entryways to the public, exhibiting family heirlooms and traditional architecture to visitors, in what is called the Folding Screen Festival.

Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri (Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture)

Located in the prefecture north of Tokyo, this festival begins on July 19th and ends on the 23rd, attracting over 750,000 visitors each year, making it one of the largest matsuri in the region. The festival is named after uchiwa, folded silk fans, that were produced in Kumagaya in the 19th century and sold in the summer months. The week is filled with performances and a taiko drum competition, on top of the famous parade through the center of the city.

Tenjin Matsuri (Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture)

Another one of the top 3 festivals in all of Japan, the Tenjin Festival is only two days long, July 24th-25th, but draws in enormous crowds each year. Having been celebrated since the 10th century, it is most famous for its enormous parade of the mikoshi, the portable shrine. The procession starts in the afternoon on land, winding through the streets of the city, before transferring to boats and floating down the river as twilight begins, and ends with a beautiful firework display over the water!

Have you been to any of these famous festivals? If you have, we hope this brought back some good memories for you. If you haven't, we hope to have given you some travel plans for future years!

See you next week!