Celebrate August Festivals in Japan

Many spectacular Japanese festivals or matsuri (祭) usher in the month of August. Here are August exciting festivals to celebrate:

Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri (August 5–7) in Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, is a relatively new festival, first celebrated in 1964. It attracts over a million spectators each year and is one of the major festivals of the Tohoku area (Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Aomori, Yamagata, and Akita prefectures).

Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri. | f_a_r_e_w_e_l_l

Traditional taiko drummers, elaborately decorated floats, and over 10,000 dancers in traditional Japanese costumes parade through the streets of Yamagata city.

Gujo Odori Dance Festival in Gujo City, Gifu Prefecture, is one of the three most celebrated dance festivals in Japan. The Japanese government has designated it a Significant Intangible Cultural Folk Asset.  The Gujo Odori Dance Festival dates back 400 years and became widely popular during the Edo period as a way to promote harmonious ties between rival classes—farmers, artisans, tradesmen, and warriors. Tetsuya Odori (August 13–16) is the highlight of the festivities. It runs for four nights and people dance all night long from evening until morning.

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri  in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is held each year on the 7th day of the 7th month of the year depending on either the solar or lunar calendar and the area in Japan.

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri. | Yuichi Shiraishi

In some places the festival is celebrated in July; in others, August.  It is one of the largest, most famous celebrations in Japan.

Yamaga Toro Matsuri in Yamaga City, Kumamoto Prefecture, is held at Omiya-Shrine and is one of the greatest fire festivals in Japan. Kumamoto is also known as the “Land of Fire.” Other fire festivals are also celebrated in August in Kumamoto, such as the Kikusui-machi Kofun Matsuri (Kikusui-machi Burial Mounds Festival) in early August and  Hi-no-Kuni Matsuri (Land of Fire Festival) in mid-August. The origin of the festivals goes back to the ancient Japanese legend where the Emperor and his entourage could not travel any farther because of a thick fog. He was received by the villagers who held pine torches to light his path. Sennin Toro Odori is a re-enactment of the old legend and is truly a sight to behold.