Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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Will you be in Japan in August 2023? You’re in luck, as the middle of the summer is the peak of the festival season of Japan’s lively matsuri. To be immersed in the music, the dancing, and the merriment of a traditional festival is one of the best parts of Japan’s warmest season. These festivals are held all over the country, so you do have to be a bit lucky to be in the right spot at the right time, but let us make it easier for you to run into one of these vibrant celebrations. Here is an overview of 10 of the best Japanese festivals in Japan in August 2023!
- 1. Nebuta Festival (Aomori)
- 2. Nagaoka Festival (Niigata)
- 3. Akita Kanto Festival (Akita)
- 4. Hanagasa Festival (Yamagata)
- 5. Sendai Tanabata Festival (Miyagi)
- 6. Awa Odori Festival (Tokushima)
- 7. Yosakoi Festival (Kochi)
- 8. Gozan Okuribi (Kyoto)
- 9. Fukagawa Festival (Tokyo)
- 10. Koenji Awa Odori Festival (Tokyo)
- Japan Wonder Travel Tours
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1. Nebuta Festival (Aomori)
The Nebuta Festival in northern Aomori revolves around nightly parades that feature enormous and sometimes quite fearsome Nebuta puppet floats. The Nebuta are huge depictions of warriors and dragons and other (mythical) beings. They are made by Nebuta masters who work on them for the whole year, and this festival is their time to finally shine. The traditional music is also an important part of the atmosphere of the Nebuta festival just like the Haneto dancers who hop and bounce down the street to the beat of the music. And the good news is that anyone can be a Haneto dancer, as long as you apply beforehand and wear a Haneto costume!
When: August 2nd-7th (the nightly parades from August 2-7 around 7pm are the most popular events of the festival)
Where: Aomori Station area
2. Nagaoka Festival (Niigata)
While there are many fireworks festivals in Japan during the summer, the Nagaoka Festival in Niigata prefecture boasts one of the 3 largest firework displays in the country. The festival also features portable shrines, dance parades, and lantern floats, but the pinnacle is undoubtedly the firework show. It is best to come and claim your spot hours beforehand if you want a good view of the show! Although you might not associate fireworks with solemn remembrance, the enormous firework display at the end of the festival that has been held since 1946 to commemorate the end of the war and the reconstruction of Japan, has a part that is especially dedicated to the reconstruction efforts.
When: August 2nd-3rd 2023
Where: Along the banks of the Shinano River near Ote Bridge in Nagaoka, Niigata
Check out some of Japan’s best summer fireworks festivals here:
3. Akita Kanto Festival (Akita)
Every year in early August, the gods are asked for bountiful harvests with the Kanto Festival that lights up the city of Akita in northeastern Japan. After the sun sets, 280 so-called kanto poles that are made of bamboo bearing dozens of lit-up rice paper lanterns each are carried around the city with great skill. The heaviest kanto poles weigh around 50 kg and are 12 meters tall, so you can imagine how much practice goes into being able to carry them. The sight of the long parade of thousands of swaying lanterns accompanied by traditional music creates a magical atmosphere that you will surely not forget!
When: The main events take place from August 3th-6th 2023 between 6:15-9 pm
Where: Sanno Cross Junction to Nichome-bashi in Akita City
4. Hanagasa Festival (Yamagata)
If you like watching traditional folk dances, the Hanagasa Festival in Yamagata City, Yamagata prefecture is a must-see. Every year over a million people come to see more than 10,000 dancers parade through the main streets of the city in a colorful, moving crowd that dances to the beat of the taiko drums while they chant ‘yassho makkasho’ which is said to have originated when people worked on the fields. Perhaps one of the best parts is from 6:10-6:30 pm and around 8.30 pm when parts of the parade pass by where spectators are invited to dance along. Don’t be shy and join the merriment all around!
When: August 5th-7th 2023 from 6 pm – 9:45 pm
Where: Yamagata City’s main street
5. Sendai Tanabata Festival (Miyagi)
While the Tanabata festival is celebrated throughout Japan, it is the Sendai Tanabata Festival that is the ultimate way to honor the tradition. The festival’s story has its roots in ancient China and is about two star-crossed lovers that were punished by the universe in the form of a lifelong separation. Once a year, though, they were allowed to meet by crossing the milky way, and Tanabata is when this happens. During this colorful matsuri Sendai is festooned with vivid Tanabata decorations, a sight so impressive that millions of tourists come to the city just to see it in person. Besides the streamers, there are all kinds of festivities going on in Sendai including street performances, live music, traditional dance, and traditional Japanese food!
When: August 6th-8th 2023
Where: area around Sendai Station (Ichibancho and Chuo shopping arcades, Shimin Hiroba Square, Kotodai Park, Jozenji Dori street)
6. Awa Odori Festival (Tokushima)
The most famous dance festival of the Obon period in August is the Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima on Shikoku Island. Some events happen during the day, but most of the spectacle is happening in the evening between 6 pm-10:30 pm when dance groups perform all around the blocked-off festival area. There are both amateur and more serious dance groups, and every group has its own distinct clothing and dancing style. Of course, the typical festival food and game stands are dispersed all over the area so you will have a full evening of fun festivities!
When: August 12th-15th 2023
Where: festival area around Tokushima Station
7. Yosakoi Festival (Kochi)
With yosakoi being a unique festival dance that originated in Kochi prefecture, the Yosakoi Festival in Kochi City is the perfect place to enjoy this upbeat, vivid spectacle. It once started out as a way to boost morale in downcast post-war Japan, and it has proven to stay popular throughout the years. Inclusive, multigenerational groups practice together throughout the country and even the world, and this festival has about 200 yosakoi teams with a total of around 20,000 dancers participating each year. Flowing, colorful costumes and large flags are part of the visual attraction of the festival, and the sound of the accompanying clappers and traditional music make for a rousing time.
When: August 9th-12th 2023
Where: 16 different stages in central Kochi City
8. Gozan Okuribi (Kyoto)
You may have seen the impressive pictures of the fiery large characters blazing in Kyoto’s mountains during the Gozan Okuribi festival, but actually being there when the ritual bonfires are lit is all the more magnificent. The lighting of these fires is done to send off all ancestors back to the world where they temporarily returned from during Obon, and the shapes form 4 kanji (Japanese characters), a boat, and a gate. It is especially recommended to watch this incredible display from somewhere high-up so you can view all shapes at the same time around 8:30 pm.
When: August 16th between 8 pm – 8:30 pm
Where: the Nakagyo Ward, from a high building, or along the Kamogawa river in Kyoto
9. Fukagawa Festival (Tokyo)
The actual main festival of the Fukagawa Festival in Tokyo is only celebrated once every 3 years, with the next one due in 2023 and it’s promised to be wet and wild on its first day. From 9 am, more than 50 mikoshi are paraded through the streets while onlookers throw generous portions of water on them. As the festival is hugely popular, it is very crowded and very wet, which isn’t exactly unwelcoming during the hot summer days of mid-August. It is one of the largest Shinto festivals in Tokyo and is held around the Tomioka Hachiman shrine in Monzennakacho.
When: August 13th 2023
Where: Around the area of Monzennakacho Station and Kiba Station in Tokyo
10. Koenji Awa Odori Festival (Tokyo)
Are you interested in the Awa Odori of Kochi but can’t make it all the way to Shikoku? In that case it can be a lot of fun to check out the slightly smaller and very lively Koenji Awa Odori Festival in Tokyo instead! What started in the 1950s to promote the shopping area in what used to be a sleepy suburban neighborhood, is now a massive dance festival that attracts nearly a million people to the area every year! This year the festival will not be taking place outdoors in the streets, but on a smaller scale indoors at ZA-KOENJI Public Theater.
When: Usually late August
*We will update the dates for 2023 when it’s officially announced
Where: ZA-KOENJI Public Theater
If you are in Japan in August and are looking for something fun to do outdoors, there is nothing better than joining a summer festival. There are endless summer festivals going on throughout Japan no matter where you are traveling. We hope you found a festival that you are interested in checking out from our list of the 10 best festivals in Japan in August 2023!
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