August 2016 Fireworks Festivals Schedule – In & Around Tokyo

Here comes the second part of our Fireworks Festivals Schedule! All big Events In & Around Tokyo for August are featured in this article.  Get your Yukata ready!

Tokyo

The 34th Koto Fireworks Festival

Date: August 1st (Monday), 7:30pm – 8:30pm
This fireworks display will be held along the Arakawa River. In case of light rain, the event takes place. In case of stormy weather, the fireworks display moves to the next day, August 2nd (Tuesday).
Visitors last year: 350,000 people
Number of fireworks: 4,000
Access: Tokyo Metro Tozai Line –> Minami-Sunamachi Station, Exit No. 2A or 3 (15min walk)
Address: Arakawa・Sunamachi Mizube Koen, 8-22 Higashi Suna, Koto-ku

63rd Todabashi & 57th Itabashi Fireworks Festival

DSC_0486Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks festival features two festivals which are very close to each other and count as one. The Arakawa river separates those both places, Toda City belongs to Saitama Prefecture and Itabashi belongs to Tokyo. Therefore you can enjoy the festival from both sides of the river. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: Itabashi Area 520,000 / Todabashi Area 420,000
Number of fireworks:  12,000
Access & Address:
① Todabashi Fireworks Festival (Arakawa Kasenshiki, Todabashi Joryu, Japan National Route 17, Toda-shi, Saitama)
JR Saikyo Line -> Toda Koen Station (20min walk)
② Itabashi Fireworks Festival (Arakawa Kasenshiki, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo)
JR Saikyo Line -> Ukima Funado Station / Toei Mita Line -> Takashimadaira Station・Nishidai Station・Hasune Station (20min walk)

41st Edogawa-ku Fireworks Festival & 32nd Ichikawa Summer Nights Fireworks Festival

DSC_0487Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:15pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks festival features two festivals which are very close to each other and count as one. It is located at the border of Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 1,390,000 (Edogawa-ku 900,000 / Ichikawa-shi 490,000)
Number of fireworks:  14,000
Access & Address:
① Edogawa-ku Fireworks Festival (Edogawa Kasenshiki, Toritsu Shinozaki Koen, Kamishinozaki 1-25, Edogawa-ku)
Toei Shinjuku Line -> Shinozaki Station (15min walk); JR Sobu Line -> Koiwa Sation/ Keisei Line -> Edogawa Station (25min walk)
② Ichikawa Summer Nights Fireworks Festival (Ozu 3, Ichikawa-shi, Chiba )
JR Soba Line -> Ichikawa Station (15min walk); JR Sobu Line -> Motoyawata Station (30min walk) , Keisei Line -> Konodai Station (20min walk)

Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival

DSC_0193Date: August 20th (Saturday), 7:30pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks festival acts as a charity at the same time, concentrating on the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Kumamoto Earthquake. Popular artists will perform as well. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, August 21st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 1,000,000 people
Number of fireworks:  12,000
Access: JR Sobu Line -> Sendagaya Station・Shinanomachi Station・Yoyogi Station; Tokyo Metro Lines -> Gaienmae Station・Aoyama-Itchome Station・Omotesando Station・Kitasando station; Toei Oedo Line -> Kokuritsu-Kyogijo
Address: Meiji Jingu Gaien, Minato-ku, Shibuya-ku, Shinjuku-ku

Movie City Chofu – Summer Fireworks Festival (34th Chofu Fireworks Festival)

DSC_0464Date: August 21st (Sunday), 6:50pm – 7:50pm (*Paid seats are available)
Since Chofu is the movie city of Tokyo (many movie production companies are located in this area) the fireworks festival comes along with music out of popular movies.
In case of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 380,000 people
Number of fireworks:  8,000
Access: Fuda Area: Keio Line -> Chofu Station (25min), Keio Tamagawa Area: Keio Line -> Keio Tamagawa Station (10min walk)

Kanagawa

2016 Yokosuka Fireworks Festival

DSC_0151Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:15pm – 7:45pm
150 booths are set up to enjoy local food. In case of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 223,000 people
Number of fireworks:  5,000
Access: Keikyu Line -> Yokosuka Chuo Station (25min walk)
Address: Umikaze Koen, Mikasa Koen, Yokosuka-shi

70th Atsugi Ayu Summer and Fireworks Festival

Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7pm ~
In the end of the Ayu Summer Festival, about 10,000 fireworks will turn the sky into a mood-enhancing play of lights and colors.  While watching the fireworks you can taste local dishes which are prepared by the 400 booths which are set up around the area. In case of stormy weather, the event will be postponed.
Visitors last year: 180,000 people
Number of fireworks: 10,000
Access: Odakyu Odawara Line –> Hon-Atsugi Station – North Exit (15min walk)
Address: Sagamigawa Kasenshiki Sansen Goryuten, Atsugi-shi

42nd Southern Beach Chigasaki Fireworks Festival

DSC_1129Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:30pm – 8:20pm
Booths are set up to try local food while watching the fireworks display. In case of stormy weather, the event will move to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 80,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: JR Tokaido Main Line・Sagami Line –> Chigasaki Station – South Exit (20min walk)
Address: Southern Beach Chigasaki, Chigasaki Kaisuiyokujo, Nakakaigan 4-12986, Chigasaki-shi

36th Miura Kaigan Summer Nights Fireworks Festival

Date: August 9th (Tuesday), 7:30pm – 8:15pm
The fireworks will be set off from the sea and you can enjoy the view while sitting on the beach. 90 booths selling local food are prepared. In case of rainy or stormy weather, the event will move to the next day, August 10th (Saturday).
Visitors last year: 105,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: Keihin Kyuko Kurihama Line –>Miurakaigan Station (3min walk)
Address: Sagamigawa Kasenshiki Sansen Goryuten, Atsugi-shi

75th Tamagawa Fireworks Festival

Date: August 20th (Saturday), 6:30pm – 8pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and will be held along the Tama River. 200 booths are set up to enjoy local food. In case of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 308,000 people
Number of fireworks:  6,000
Access: Tokyu Den’entoshi Line -> Futako-Shinchi Station (15min walk – Kawasaki Area), Oimachi Line -> Kaminoge Station (8min Tokyo Area)
Address: Tamagawa Kasenshiki, Futakobashi  ~ Daisan Keihin Doro, Takatsu-ku, Kawasaki-shi

66th Shonan Hiratsuka Fireworks Festival

Date: Friday August 26th (Friday), 7pm – 8pm
In the end of the Ayu Summer Festival, about 10,000 fireworks will turn the sky into a mood-enhancing play of lights and colors.  While watching the fireworks you can taste local dishes which are prepared among the 400 booths which are set up around the area. In case of stormy weather, the event will be postponed.
Visitors last year: 140,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: JR Tokaido Main Line –> Hiratsuka Station – South Exit -> 10min Bus ride into Sukaminato direction until the last stop (5min walk)
Address: Sagamigawa Kako, Shonan Itako, Hiratsuka-shi

42nd Kanazawa Fireworks Festival

Date: August 27th (Saturday), 7pm – 8pm
This fireworks display will be held in front of Tokyo Bay. About 20 booths are set up to enjoy local food while watching the fireworks display. In case of rain, the event takes place. In case of stormy weather, the fireworks display will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 280,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,500
Access: Kanazawa Seaside Line –> Uminokoen-Minamiguchi Station・Uminokoen-Shibaguchi Station (right in front); Keikyu Main Line -> Kanazawa-Bunko Station (20min walk)
Address: Kanazawa-ku Uminokoen, Uminokoen 10, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama-shi

45th Sagamihara Summer Nights Fireworks Festival

Date: August 27th (Saturday), 6:45pm – 8:15pm (*Paid seats are available)
About 200 booths are set up to enjoy local food while watching the fireworks display. In case of stormy weather, or floodwater of Sagami-river, the event moves to the next day, August 28th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 200,000 people
Number of fireworks:
8,000
Access: JR Yokohama Line –> Sagamihara Station – South Exit -> Bus No. 17 into Suigotana direction via Tana Bus Terminal until the last stop (5min walk)
Address: Sagamigawa Takatabashi Joryu, Suigotana, Chuo-ku, Sagamihara-shi

Chiba

Teganuma Fireworks Festival 2016

DSC_1196Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
The fireworks will be set off at three different areas which are located close to each other. For example, the first venue features characters loved by kids, and the second one shows a fantastic fireworks display set off on water. Booths are set up at the Akibo area to enjoy local food. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 410,000 people
Number of fireworks: 13,500
Address & Access:
① Kashiwa Spot 1 (Teganuma Shizen Fureai Ryokudo・Kita-Chiba Dosui Visitor Center  Area)
Access: JR Joban Line –> Kita-Kashiwa Station (25min walk); Kashiwa Station – East Exit (40min walk)
② Kashiwa Spot 2 (Teganuma Shizen Fureai Ryokudo・Michi no Eki  Area)
Access: JR Joban Line -> Kashiwa Station – East Exit -> Bus Platform No.5 -> Tobu Bus into Shonan direction -> 20min ride until Oi (20min walk)
③ Abiko Spot (Teganuma Koen  Area)
Access: JR Joban Line -> Abiko Station – South exit (10min walk)

The 890th Anniversary of the foundation of Chiba-City
Makuhari Beach Fireworks Festival 2016 (38th Chiba Fireworks Festival)

Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:30pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and it is popular for reading special messages like marriage and birthday slogans while setting up the fireworks. Booths are set up to enjoy delicious festival food during the event. In case of stormy weather the fireworks festival will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 300,000 people
Number of fireworks: 15,000
Access: JR Keiyo Line –> Kaihin-Makuhari Station (15min walk)
Address: Makuhari Kaihin Koen, Mihama 1, Mihama-ku, Chiba-shi

56th Sakura Fireworks Festival

Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and will be set off from the water. Booths selling local food are set up. In case of stormy weather the fireworks festival will move to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 160,000 people
Number of fireworks: 16,000
Access: Keisei Main Line –> Keisei-Usui Station (30min walk)
Address: Sakura Furusato Hiroba (Inbanuma Kohan), Usuita 2714, Sakura-shi

40th Nagareyama Fireworks Festival

Date: August 20th (Saturday), 7pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and is also called “Nagareyama Sky Musical”. Booths selling local food are set up. In case of stormy weather the fireworks festival will move to August 26th (Friday).
Visitors last year: 165,000 people
Number of fireworks: 10,000
Access: Ryutetsu Nagareyama Line –> Nagareyama Station・Heiwadai Station (5min walk); Tsukuba Express -> Nagareyama Central Park Station -> Free Shuttle Bus until Ryutetsu Nagareyama Line –  Nagareyama Station
Address: Edogawa Tsutsumi, Nagareyama 1~3, Nagareyama-shi

69th Kisarazu Port and Fireworks Festival

Date: August 15th (Monday), 7:15pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
The fireworks display will be the highlight of the Kisarazu Port Festival. 500 booths are set up to enjoy typical festival food, as well as playing festival games. In case of rainy weather the fireworks festival will move to the next day, August 16th (Tuesday).
Visitors last year: 120,000 people
Number of fireworks: 10,000
Access: JR Uchibo Line –> Kisarazu Station (15min walk)
Address: Kisarazu-Ko Naiko, Naka no Shima, Kisarazu-shi

Saitama

33rd Asaka Festival (Saika-Festival)

DSC_0471Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:15pm – 8:15pm (*Paid seats are available)
The fireworks display will be the highlight of the Asaka Saikasai, which takes place from Friday August 5th until Sunday August 7th. 300 booths are set up to enjoy typical festival food and playing festival games. In case of stormy weather the fireworks festival will move to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 280,000 people
Number of fireworks: 9,000
Access: Tobu Tojo Line –> Asaka Station (5min walk)
Address: Camp Asaka Atochi, Asaka-shi

38th Tatara Festival & Fireworks Festival

Date: August 7th (Sunday), 7:45pm – 8:30pm
The highlight of the Tatara Festival will be the fireworks display. 160 booths are set up to enjoy typical festival food, as well as playing festival games. In case of rain, the fireworks festival will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 160,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: Saitama Rapid Railway Line –> Minami-Hatogaya Station (15min walk)
Address: Kawaguchi Autorace, Aoki 5-21-1, Kawaguchi-shi

Higashi Matsuyama Fireworks Festival

Date: August 27th (Saturday); 7pm – 9pm
30 booths are set up to enjoy typical festival food. In case of light rain, the fireworks festival takes place. In case of storm and rain, the event moves to August 28th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 90,000 people
Number of fireworks: 5,000
Access: Tobu Tojo Line –> Takasaka Station (15min walk)
Address: Tokigawa  Riverside Park, Ooaza Takasaka 700-1, Higashi-Matsuyama-shi

Saitama City Fireworks Festival 2016 (Higashi-Urawa Omagikoen)

Date: August 11th (Thursday); 7:30pm ~
The light up of the garden due to the fireworks offers a beautiful sight. 250 booths are set up to enjoy local dishes. In case of light rain, the fireworks festival takes place. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to August 12th (Friday).
Visitors last year: 80,000 people
Number of fireworks: 5,000
Access: JR Musashino Line –> Higashi-Urawa Station (20min walk)
Address: Omagikoen Area, Midori-ku, Saitama-shi

Ninja ID: nene16


WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

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Tabea Greuner
Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

In Harmony with the Seasons: Festivals

text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
In Japan, various shrines and temples hold summer festivals during the months of July and August. The origins of these festivals stem from a way to soothe the tired souls from farming labor, and to pray for protection from illness, as well as a ceremony to remember the deceased.
One of the joys of the summer season is visiting the temple and shrine grounds during these festive days when rows of shops would be lined up. Many of these shop owners were traveling businessmen who used to be called “Jusanyashi” and moved
between various prefectures selling their wares. The items sold include medicine, tobacco, toothpaste and other rare items that came from overseas. In the olden days, there were known to be 13 such items, hence the naming of “Jusanyashi”, referring to this number. There would also be manzai comedians or singers selling their acts to entertain the crowds at the festival. Before the days of newspapers and mass communication, these people were the main source of news for the locals, who head to the festival to fulfill their curiosity.

Now, this custom remains in form with different goods being sold, leaving some stalls such as goldfish fishing, mask shops and candied fruits that still continue to delight the children.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently, teaches at Tama Art University.

In Harmony with the Seasons : Obon

This dish is soba noodles and a variety of gourds seasoned with soy sauce and rapeseed oil, with a generous portion of hemp seeds scattered around. Soba has the power to cool your body, and hemp seeds to warm your body, it is said.text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
This dish is soba noodles and a variety of gourds seasoned with soy sauce and rapeseed oil, with a generous portion of hemp seeds scattered around. Soba has the power to cool your body, and hemp seeds to warm your body, it is said.
text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
As the height of the summer approaches, Obon season gets underway. Large and small fireworks, Tanabata festivals, Shoro-nagashi festivals, and numerous folk dance gatherings… crowds in Yukata (casual Kimono) flock to shrines and temples to enjoy summer funfairs. Street stalls offer games like ‘catch the goldfish’. Old-fashioned penny candies glimmer magically under the flickering lights of the stalls.
Obon is the week when the souls
passed away are supposed to come back to spend time with their family or descendants. The festival takes many forms – there is even a masquerade dance which carries on till dawn.
Vegetables with stick legs are prepared for the souls to ride on between worlds. Cucumber is prepared for the arrival trip, and eggplant is for returning to heaven, loaded with souvenirs. The sticks are made of hemp stalk core, which is also used as candlewick.
Seasonal dishes will be prepared in welcome. Strong smelling herbs like garlic are avoided as they deter the spirits, just as in the story of Dracula.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

Summer With A Bang! – Top 3 Runners-up Fireworks Festivals in Japan 2016

From breathtaking patterns in the sky to exhilarating festival parades, summer brings out the passion in Japan. And if our selection of top 3 Fireworks Festivals in Japan wasn’t enough for you, these 3 other selections are up to par!

Toyota Oiden Matsuri Fireworks Festival
Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture

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This up and coming festival features collaborations with the Japan Fireworks Artists Association, a synchronised “melody fireworks” show with cylinder fireworks, a wide starmine display and a 30 meter tall Niagara Falls programme.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 13,000
No. of spectators: 360,000
Date: Jul. 31, 2016
Time: 7:10pm – 9pm
Address: Yahagi River, Shirahama Park area
Access: Take the Shinkansen to Nagoya, change to the JR Chuo Honsen line to Maetsuru, and take the Meitetsu to Toyota City Station. A 10-minute walk from the station.

Fukuroi Enshu Fireworks
Fukuroi, Shizuoka Prefecture

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A popular programme in this display is the “Japan’s Most Popular Melodies Starmine”, a fireworks display synchronised to popular tunes held by the lake. One of the few musical fireworks in Japan, it is also representative of the Tokai area (Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Mie prefecture).

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 25,000
No. of spectators: 410,000
Date: Aug. 6, 2016
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Address: Haranoyagawa Water Park, 3164-1 Aino, Fukuroi City
Access: Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to the JR Tokaido Line Aino Station, and walk for 20 minutes to the venue.

Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition
Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture

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The Tsuchiura fireworks competition is said to be where the starmine firework technique began, making it the go-to place to catch the most advanced technical displays; impressing all viewers as they burst in a harmony of colours and shapes.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 20,000
No. of spectators: 700,000
Date: Oct. 1, 2016
Time: 6pm-8:30pm
Address: Sakuragawa river banks (in the vicinity of Ohashi school)
Access: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Joban Line to the Tsuchiura West exit, and walk for 30 minutes, or take the shuttle bus from the station.

The Matsuri Manual : 8 types of fireworks you need to know

One of the highlights of Japanese summer are the fireworks. There is just something about going to a fireworks festival (hanabi taikai) and seeing the summer night sky being lit up with breathtaking patterns that makes your summer experience in Japan feel complete. And these fireworks will definitely not disappoint! Here we will introduce the types of fireworks that you can look forward to in seeing. See if you can find your favorite!

Chrysanthemum・ 菊先

A spherical explosion of coloured stars with a short burn time, followed by crackling.

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Willow・ 柳

Similar to the chrysanthemum but the flame trails extinguish gradually, creating a willow tree-like effect.

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HANABI SHAPE-willow_R

Bee・ 蜂

Emits a high-pitched sound while twirling in random directions for a truly attention-grabbing display.

HANABI SHAPE-bee2_R

Thousand Wheel・ 千輪

An explosion comprising many small spherical fireworks bursting into a collage of colours and hues.

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UFO / Saturn・ 土星

A combination of hanabi that form the shape of planet Saturn before slowly dissipating.

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HANABI SHAPE-UFO-Jupiter_R

Smile・ スマイル

A combination of fireworks that form a smiley face – always a great hit with children!

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HANABI SHAPE-smile_R

Niagara・ ナイアガラ

Long, flowing, brilliantly illuminated fireworks that resemble the Niagara Falls in America.

HANABI SHAPE-NIAGARA_R

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Starmine・ スターマイン

A continuous firing of hanabi in a collage of shapes and colours to create patterns.

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Have you read the other articles in this series?
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Style Guide
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide
The Matsuri Manual : Matsuri Games

The story of Tanabata

July brings Tanabata, one of Japan’s most well-known festivals. Many people recognize the pieces of paper with wishes hanging from a bamboo tree. But do you know why this “star festival” is celebrated and why we write on colorful pieces of paper? The origin of this summer tradition can be traced back to the story of two (literally) star-crossed lovers.

Once upon a time…

There was a princess named Orihime. She was a weaver who made beautiful pieces of cloth by the heavenly river, also known as the Milky Way. Because Orihime spent most of her time weaving, she became very sad and felt that she would never find love. Her father, who was God of the Heavens, knew of a good young man who lived just across the Milky Way. His name was Hikoboshi, a cow herder. The two fell in love instantly. But their love for each other was so deep that they neglected their duties. Orihime stopped weaving and Hikoboshi’s cows wandered the heavens.

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The God of the Heavens became very angry and forbade the two lovers to be together. But he was also the father of Orihime and loved her deeply, so he arranged that they could meet up once a year if Orihime returned to her weaving. This day became the 7th day of the 7th month.

Finally, the long-awaited day arrived, but the Milky Way was too difficult for both of them to cross. A flock of magpies saw Orihime’s sadness and made a bridge for her so she could cross and reunited with her lover. It is said that when it rains on Tanabata, the magpies do not come and the lovers have to wait another year.

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Why Paper Wishes?

When Tanabata first arrived in Japan from China in the Heian period (794 – 1185), aristocrats in the imperial court would write poetry while gazing at the stars to celebrate the lovers. It wasn’t until the Edo period (1603–1868) that Tanabata was celebrated by all the people of Japan. It was during this period that the tradition of writing wishes on tanzaku, brightly colored pieces of paper, and hanging them from branches of bamboo became part of the celebration.

People started using a tall and straight bamboo to hang the strips of paper with their wishes, hoping that their hopes and dreams would be sent to the heavens.

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2016 Tokyo Bay Summer Night Cruise Information

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Hop on board this definitive Tokyo summer experience!

Tokai Kisen, a company that runs passenger ship tours and routes in around Tokyo Bay, proudly announced the opening of the 66th Tokyo Bay Summer Night Cruise. Participate in this 2-hour cruise aboard the `Salvia-go`, a passenger ship that can be boarded by up to 1,500 people and drink in the beautiful view of Tokyo’s city lights while enjoying food, beverages, music and good company.

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In addition, you can get a special discount on weekdays if you join the tour wearing a yukata (light summer kimono). Do not worry if you do not have one – there’s a rental service available at the terminal! You can come empty handed and go home filled with fun summer memories.

If you’re not yet convinced, read this review of last year’s event written by a WAttention reporter.

Prior reservation is required so make sure to reserve as soon as possible!

Reservation

TEL 03-3437-6119 (9:00~20:00)
WEB http://www.nouryousen.jp/payment.html (Japanese)

Cruise Information

Dates: Jul. 1 - Oct. 10, 2016
Hours: 19:15~21:00 *boarding starts at 18:50
Location: Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal
Access: 7 min. walk from JR Hamamatsucho Station, 7 min. walk from Toei Subway Oedo line or Asakusa line Daimon Station, 1 min. walk form Yurikamome line Takeshiba Station
Fee: Adults 2,600 yen
High school or Jr High School students 1,050yen
Elementary school students 550 yen
・This fee includes boarding, free-flow drink and tax
・1,000 yen discount for passengers dressed in yukata (weekdays only, does not include Sat/Sun/Public holidays)

Yukata Rental Information

Summer night cruise Yukata rental shop
URL: http://yukata-natsu.tokyo/ (Japanese)
Rental fee:
Prices for renting the yukata and kitsuke (help with putting the yukata on) starts from 4,000 yen.
You can also bring your own yukata and get help with putting it on for 3,000yen.

Package plan:
1. Boarding pass + kitsuke only
4,500yen (weekdays) / 5,500yen (Sat/Sun/Public holidays)

2. Boarding pass + Full Set rental
6,000yen (weekdays) / 7,000yen (Sat/Sun/Public holidays)

(All rates including tax)

Kanto Matsuri

Designated as one of Tohoku’s top three festivals, the Kanto Matsuri is a sight to behold. The name “Kanto Matsuri” does not mean that it is in the Kanto region, “Kanto” is the name for the wooden poles with lanterns attached to them. Every year from August 3rd till August 6th in Akita City, Akita prefecture, young men parade with poles full of lanterns that can weigh up to 50kg (110lbs)!

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The kanto is eight meters high with 46 paper lanterns shaped like rice bales. The decorative paper streamers on top of the pole, which are often seen in Shinto rituals, drive away evil spirits. Kanto are always in the shape of an Akita cedar tree.

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More than 200 kantos are paraded through the city, turning the streets in the an amazing lit-up spectacle. Some members of the parade perform amazing tricks such as balancing the poles on one hand or on their face. This is because it is actually not allowed to hold the pole with your hands. While ensuring that the paper lanterns do not go out, men try to impress each other by showing off one amazing trick after another.

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The origin of this festival can be found in the more quiet and serene Tanabata festival. In some parts of Japan it is celebrated in August rather than in July because August is closer to the 7th month of the old Lunar calendar.

More Information

Access: 10 min walk from JR Akita Station, Akita City in Akita prefecture
Location: Kanto O-dori
(between the Sanno Jujiro Crossroads and Nichomebashi Bridge)
Dates: Aug. 3 – 6, 2016
Hours: 9:20am – 3:20pm (Day Parade, Aug. 4 & 5), 6:15pm – 8:35pm (Night Parade, Aug. 3 – 5)

Wind Chime Festival : Enmusubi Furin

A fairly new festival in Japan, Enmusubi Furin has proven to be very popular and is refreshing newcomer amidst all the loud and busy Japanese summer festivals. The festival is held at the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine near Tokyo, a shrine dedicated to the God of Marriage.

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The highlight of the festival is of course the “Enmusubi Furin Kairo” (Corridor of Marriage Wind Chimes). Just like the “Wind Chime Lane” at the festival, this “marriage corridor” is filled with wishes for love and a happy marriage. These wishes are written on paper strips and tied to the wind chimes. Every time the wind makes the wish move, the bell chimes for it to come true.

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During the evening there is a beautiful projection of the Milky Way, reminiscent of the Tanabata origin story. After admiring both the wind chimes and the Milky Way, you can observe the beautiful bamboo-shaped ornaments that are on display.

Of course there are stalls with festival food so you can eat while watching the various performances in the court music pavilion. If you prefer a more refined taste, go to the nearby Hikawa Hall where a professional chef is serving a delicious buffet. Or if you have a sweet tooth, buy one of the limited edition sweets at the adjacent Musubi Café.

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The Shrine is in Kawagoe near an area called “Little Edo”, because the streets are still the same as during the Edo period.

Access

Date: Jul. 9(Saturday) to Aug. 31(Wednesday), 2016
Hours: 09:00 – 21:00
Where: 1 Chome-407 Takahanacho, Omiya Ward, Saitama, Saitama Prefecture 330−0803
From Kawagoe: Hikawa Shrine bus stop on the Eagle line or the Miyashita-machi stop on the Tobu line.
From Ikebukuro: Tobu Tojo Line express, 31 minutes (450 yen) to Kawagoe station
From Seibu Shinjuku: Seibu Shinjuku Line Limited Express, 43 minutes (890 yen) to Kawagoe station
From Shinjuku: JR Kawagoe Line Local, 60 minutes (570 yen) to Kawagoe station

The Matsuri Manual : Matsuri Games

 

Japanese summer festivals, or Matsuri, are the main spot during the summer to see yukata, eat delicious food and of course play games. Just like every festival has traditions that have been passed down over the years, the same games have been making a comeback every year due to popularity. Here we will introduce some of the most popular Matsuri games.

 

Water Balloon Yoyo (ヨーヨーつり)

Small water balloons are filled with both air and water, giving them enough bouncy power. The balloons are closed with a rubber string with a loop. To acquire one of these balloons, you use a stick with a paper string with a metal hook attached to the end. The goal is to “fish” the balloon out of the water before the paper string holding the hook disintegrates. After you catch your balloon, you loop it around your finger and bounce it around like a yo-yo.

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Gold Fish Scooping (金魚すくい)

Using a scooper with a thin piece of paper as a net, you try to catch as many goldfish as you can before the thin paper breaks. This game is seen as very difficult and does require some skill. You can take home the goldfish you caught and keep them as pets for years to come. Maybe you can name them after the Matsuri you got them at.

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Senbonbiki (せんぼんびき)

Various items such as snacks, toys or sometimes even coupons are attached to one end of a string. The other ends are collected together in one bundle and you can choose one string to pull. The item that moves at the other end is yours to keep.

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Fireworks (花火)

It might sound unsafe but these small firework sticks are totally fine to play with. Matsuri often go on until late into the night and the sparkles from these sticks bring everyone into a festive mood before the real fireworks are set off.

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Now you have all the knowledge you need to survive the classic summer Matsuri games. So get dressed in your yukata and join the festival fun!

Have you read the other articles in this series?
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Style Guide
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide

The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide

 

A festival in Japan is not complete without rows of street stalls selling soul food and street snacks before the main event. Here are some all-time Matsuri favourites:

Yakisoba (焼きそば)

This dish of Worcester-sauce flavoured stir-fried noodles with vegetables, pork and topped with pickled red ginger is a staple dish at any festival. Toppings vary according to region.

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Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

Originally from Osaka, these ball-shaped snacks are a festival favorite for sure. Fillings vary for each region but the main ingredients are minced or diced octopus, tempura pieces and green onion. When done, they are sprinkled with their signature takoyaki sauce and topped with bonito flakes (dried fish) and mayonnaise.

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Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

Just like takoyaki, this savory Japanese pancakes come from Osaka in the Kansai region. Nowadays there are many variations of this dish as the name literally means “grill it how you like it.”  The Kyoto okonomiyaki has chopped scallions and the Hiroshima version has noodles, but the basic ingredients are always slices of pork, cabbage, and okonomiyaki sauce. Just like the takoyaki, okonomiyaki is topped with mayonnaise and bonito flakes.

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Taiyaki (たい焼き)

This is a fish-shaped pancake-like pastry most commonly filled with red bean paste. More modern fillings include custard, ice cream and whipped cream.

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Candied Apple (りんご飴)

A sweet treat of apples covered in a sugary and sticky starch syrup and eaten on a stick. Similar to the candied apples eaten in the West.

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Choco Banana (チョコバナナ)

This snack has had a huge popularity boost in the last few years. While it may not seem traditionally Japanese, the bananas are always decorated with fancy colours giving them that touch of “Japanese festival flair.”

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Kakigori (かき氷)

Eaten since the Heian period (11th century) but made affordable for people in the late 19th century, this shaved ice has been Japan’s favorite festival treat to cool down. Flakes are shaved from a huge block of ice and then topped with syrup and condensed milk. Popular flavors include green tea, strawberry, blue Hawaii, cherry, lemon, grape and melon.

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Next in this series: The Matsuri Manual : Matsuri Games

Summer With A Bang! – Top 3 Fireworks Festivals in Japan 2016

Summertime in Japan isn’t complete without watermelons, shaved ice, wind chimes, mosquito coils and last but not least, fireworks of massive proportions!

It’s a great reason to put on a summer yukata, throng the streets and look up into the night sky for an hour or two.

Here are some of the top few heart-stopping, jaw-dropping fireworks festivals in Japan.

The Oomagari no Hanabi All Japan Fireworks Competition
Daisen City, Akita Prefecture

– Japan’s No. 1 Fireworks Competition –

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With an ideal backdrop of two mountains and a riverfront, Oomagari is where top firework technicians stage their best musical fireworks show to compete for the coveted Prime Minister’s Award for fireworks. Now into its 106th year, this offers one of the widest starmine displays.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 15,000 – 20,000
No. of spectators: 80,000
Date: August 27, 2016
Time: Day fireworks: 5:30pm~  Night fireworks: 6:50pm~
Access: Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Oomagari Station, 30 minutes’ walk from the station to the venue.

Nagaoka Matsuri Great Fireworks Festival
Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture

– Historic Fireworks –

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The fireworks festival here has a painful past – August 1 was when Nagaoka City was practically razed to the ground during a World War II air-raid 71 years ago. These shells are launched in commemoration of the lives lost then, and a celebration of recovery.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 20,000
No. of spectators: 960,000
Date: August 2 and 3, 2016
Time: 7:20pm – 9:15pm
Access:  Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to JR Nagaoka Station, and walk for 30 minutes, or take the shuttle bus from the station.

 

Suwa Lake Fireworks Festival
Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture

– Fireworks Frenzy –

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The Suwa Lake Fireworks Festival boasts the most number of fireworks for such displays. Surrounded by mountains, the display is particularly dynamic in terms of sound. The 2km-long water starmine here is another treat for the senses.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 40,000
No. of spectators: 500,000
Date: August 15, 2016
Time: 7pm onwards
Access: Take the JR Chuo Main Line to Kami Suwa Station then walk for 8 minutes from the Kami Suwako West Exit

For more festivals in & around Tokyo: July 2016 Fireworks Festivals Schedule – In & Around Tokyo

July 2016 Fireworks Festivals Schedule – In & Around Tokyo

Summer means Hanabi Matsuri (花火祭り) season in Japan, and refers to great Fireworks Festivals held throughout the country. During the hot and humid summer, the festivals lighten up the mood and provide a sparkling colorful night sky.Unbenannt-22
Japanese people tend to wear traditional Yukata (light summer Kimono) to turn this event into a special occasion during the year. If you feel like experiencing a Hanabi Matsuri while wearing the traditional summer outfit, you can already get cheap Yukata sets starting at 6,000 yen, including Yukata, Obi (sash) and Geta (wooden clogs).

Read also: The Matsuri Manual : Festival Style Guide

We summed up all the big Fireworks Festivals in and around Tokyo for July 2016 in the following article.

Too many festivals, too little time? Check out our 3 top picks: Top 3 Fireworks Festivals in Japan 2016

Tokyo

The 39th Sumida River Fireworks Festival

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Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7:05pm – 8:30pm
The oldest fireworks display of Japan comes back to Tokyo’s Sumida river. At two spots you can enjoy a huge spectacle of colours. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 950,000 people
Number of fireworks: 20,000 (1st Spot 9,350 / 2nd Spot 10,650)
Access & Address:
Tokyo, Taito-ku and Sumida-ku
① Spot 1 (Sakura Bridge Karyu ~ Kototoi Bridge Joryu) Tokyo Metro Ginza Line –> Asakusa Station (15min walk)
② Spot 2 (Komagata Bridge Karyu ~ Umaya Bridge Joryu ) Toei Asakusa Line Toei Oedo Line -> Kuramae Station (5min walk)

50th Katsushika Summer Nights Fireworks Festival

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Date: July 26th (Tuesday), 7:20pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
For Japans oldest fireworks display, all the fireworks supplies are made in Japan, and not imported. Therefore the colours of the fireworks are simply held in an orange-red style. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, July 27th (Wednesday).
Visitors last year: 630,000 people
Number of fireworks: 15,000
Access: Keisei Kanamachi Line -> Shibamata Station (10min walk); JR Joban Line -> Kanamachi Station・Keisei Line -> Keisei Kanamachi Station (20min walk)
Address: Katsushika-ku Shibamata Baseball Stadium (Edogawa Kasenshiki), Shibamata 7-17-13, Katsushika-ku

The 38th Adachi Fireworks Festival

Date: July 23rd (Saturday), 7:30pm – 8:30pm
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and will be held along the Arakawa River. The event will be cancelled in case of rain.
Visitors last year: 550,000 people
Number of fireworks: 13,500
Access: JR Joban Line –> Kita Senju Station (15min walk); Tobu Isesaki Line (Tokyo Skytree Line) –> Kosuge Station・ Gotanno Station・Umejima Station (15min walk)
Address: Arakawa Kasenshiki, Adachi-ku (Held between Nishiarai – bridge and Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line – railway bridge)

Hachioji Fireworks Festival

Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7pm-8:30pm
This event will take place in the Hachioji Citizen Ball Park. In case of stormy weather the event will move to Sunday, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 100,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,300
Access: JR Chuo Line –> Nishi Hachioji Station (15min walk); Keio Takao Line –> Yamada Station (15min walk)
Address: Hachioji Shimin Kyujo, Daimachi 2-2, Hachioji-shi

Tachikawa Festival – Showa Memorial Park Fireworks Festival

Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7:20pm-8:20pm (*Paid seats are available)
Food booths and festival related booths will be set up inside the park. After 6pm you don´t need to pay any entrance fee for the park. In case of stormy weather, the event will move to the next day, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 360,000 people
Number of fireworks: 5,000
Access: JR Chuo Line –> Tachikawa Station (15min walk)
Address: Minna no Harappa , Showa Kinen Park, Midoricho 3173, Tachikawa-shi

Kanagawa

Yokohama Sparkling Twilight 2016

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Date: July 16th / 17th (Saturday / Sunday), 11:30am-8:30pm, Fireworks display: 7:30pm-8pm
During this weekend you can not only enjoy the fireworks display in the evening, you can also see the parades, live shows, and live music events, as well as a rescue live demonstration by the fire brigade. The Sparkling Parade features mikoshi (portable shrines) from every district of Yokohama, including Chinatown. Enjoy the restaurants and bars along the beachside of Yamashita Park, providing food of  the oldest and best-known places of Yokohama. The combination of music and fireworks provides a sparkling – final to the event. In case of light rain, the event will take place, in case of stormy weather it will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 380,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: Minatomirai Line –> Nihon Odori Station・Motomachi/Chukagai Station (3min walk)
Address: Yamashita Park, location towards the sea, Yokohama-shi


2016 Kurihama Perry Festival and Fireworks Festival

Date: July 16th (Saturday)
The festival is dedicated to the opening of Japan to the world and the friendship between Japan and America due to US naval officer Matthew Perry in 1853. In case of bad weather, the Hero Show takes place in the arcade and will be changed into a Sign and Handshake event. The other events will be cancelled or resecheduled.
Access: JR Yokosuka Line –> Kurihama Station (17min walk); Keihin Kyuko Line –> Keikyu Kurihama Station (15min walk)

Event schedule:
Yokosuka Kaikoku Bazar
Hero Shows and Band performances, as well as refreshment booths are set up.
Location: Kurihama Shotengai Harodo Dori
Time: 10am – 3:40pm
■ Memorial Ceremony for US naval officer Matthew Perry’s arrival
This event commemorates Perry’s arrival at Kurihama to arrange the opening of diplomatic and trade relations between Japan and the US.
Location: Perry Park
Time: 2pm-2:40pm
Japan – America Friendship Perry Parade
The Parade features a fleet of black ships on the water, groups of people dressed in ancient costumes, drum and fife bands, dancers, etc.
Location: In front of Perry Park; In front of Keihin Kyuko Kurihama Station
Time: 4pm – 5:30pm
Kurihama Fireworks Festival
In case of bad weather the fireworks display will be held on the following day, July 17th (Sunday).
Time: 7:30pm – 8:10pm (*paid seats available)
Visitors last year: 90,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,500
Location: Perry Park, Kurihama Kaigan, Kyu Nichiro Ganpeki, Yokosuka-shi

68th Kamakura Fireworks Display

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Date: July 20th (Wednesday), 7:20pm-8:10pm
Kamakura´s fireworks display is special, since the fireworks will be set off from boats, while you sit on the beach and watch this beautiful event. At some point the fireworks are also released underwater, where half of the explosion happens underwater, and the other half above the water.
In addition to that, festival booths are set up and sell tasty local foods to enjoy during the fireworks display. In case of rainy and stormy weather, as well as high waves the event will take place on the next day, July 21st (Thursday).
Visitors last year: 140,000 people
Number of fireworks: 2,500
Access: Yokosuka Line –> Kamakura Station (15min); Enoshima Dentetsu Line –> Yuigahama Station ・ Wadazuka Station (5min walk)
Address: Yuigahama beach ・ Zaimokuza beach, Zaimokuza, Yuigahama, Kamakura-shi

51st Hayama Beach Fireworks Display

Date: July 27th (Wednesday), 7:30pm-8pm
Hayama beach is wide and beautiful and the perfect spot to enjoy this fireworks display, which will be set off from the sea. Festival booths are set up, so don´t worry about an empty stomach. In case of stormy weather, the event will move to the next day, July 28th (Thursday).
Visitors last year: 32,000
Number of fireworks: 1,100
Access: JR Yokosuka Line –> Zushi Station -> Bus Platform No. 3 –> 15min ride until Morito Kaigan (1min walk); Keikyu-Line –> Shin Zushi Station –> Bus Platform No. 2 -> 15min ride until  Morito Kaigan (1min walk)
Address: Morito Beach, Horiuchi, Hayama-machi, Miura-gun

Chiba

Funabashi Festival – Funabashi Port Water Park Fireworks Display

Date: July 27th (Wednesday), 7:30pm-8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
The highlight of this fireworks display will be the image of Funabashi’s PR character “Funaemon” in the night sky . Booths are set up to buy local dishes. In case of light rain, the event takes place. In case of storm it will move to the next day, July 28th (Thursday).
Visitors last year: 80,000 people
Number of fireworks: 8,500
Access: JR Sobu Line –> Funabashi Station (25min walk)
Address: Funabashi Harbor Water Park, Funabashi Fishing Port area, Funabashi-shi

38th Urayasu Fireworks Display

Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7:30pm-8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
The fireworks display adapts to the music and provides a nice atmosphere. You can also enjoy local foods while watching the fireworks. In case of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 150,000 people
Number of fireworks: 6,500
Access:  KeiyoLine -> Shin Urayasu Station; Tokyo Metro Tozai Line –> Urayasu Station (A shuttle bus departing from both stations is planned)
Address: Urayasu-shi Comprehensive Park, Meikai 7-2, Urayasu-shi

Sanmu City Summer Carnival

Date: July 30th (Saturday), 3pm-8pm
This event has a Brazilian flair and you can see street performing artists as well as Samba Dances all day long. Up to 10 booths are prepared to enjoy local dishes as well. In case of rain, only the fireworks display will move to the next day, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 17,000
Number of fireworks: 1,000
Access:  JR Sobu Main Line –> Yoko Shiba Station –> 30min bus ride (Hasunuma Junkan Hasunuma direction) -> Minamihama stop (5min walk)
Address: Hasunuma Seaside Park, Hasunuma ho, Sanmu-shi

Saitama

68th Ogawa Tanabata Festival Fireworks Display

Date: July 23rd (Saturday), 7:15pm-8:30pm
The city center is decorated with Tanabata themed decorations. Regarding the legend, the festival celebrates the reunion of the deities Orihime (star Vega) and Hikoboshi (star Altair) who are separated by the Milky Way. Only once a year, on July 7th, the lovers are allowed to meet. Traditionally, on this day you can write down a wish on a paper strip called Tanzaku, and tie it to bamboo branches. Beside the fireworks display, 150 booths are set up to buy local dishes, as well as goods of the Festival’s Character “Stamu-chan”. In case of rain, the event takes place on the next day, July 24th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 220,000 people
Number of fireworks: 1,800
Access: Tobu Tojo Line –> Ogawa Station –> 20min bus ride (Park Hill direction) -> Saitama Dentokogei Kaikan stop (the venue is right there)
Address: Sengenyama Miharashi no oka Koen, Ogawa 1440, Ogawa-machi, Hiki-gun


21st Ageo Fireworks Festival

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Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7pm~
Enjoy local foods while watching this popular fireworks display. It is famous for reading marriage and birthday slogans while setting up the fireworks. In case of rain, the event moves to August 6th (Saturday).
Visitors last year: 160,000 people
Number of fireworks: 10,000
Access: JR Takasaki Line –> Ageo Station -> Tobu bus 20min bus ride (Heiho direction) -> Heiho stop (3min walk); (* There will be a shuttle bus from Ageo Station-West Exit -> last stop (10min walk))
Address: Heiho Arakawa, Heiho 2606-1, Ageo-shi

2016 Saitama Fireworks Festival “Odawa Park”

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Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7:30pm~
400 booths are set up to enjoy a lot of Japanese local dishes, as well as experiencing the traditional summer festival of Japan. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 100,000 people
Number of fireworks: 5,000
Access: Tobu Noda Line –> Omiya Koen Station ・ Odawa Station (15min walk)
Address: Around Odawa Park, Saitama-shi, Kita-ku・Omiya-ku・Minuma-ku

Ninja ID: nene16


WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

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Tabea Greuner
Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Morning Glory Festival

 

The Iriya Asagao Matsuri,or Morning Glory Festival is celebrated from July 6th to July 8th every year. This event is by far the biggest festival in Japan dedicated to the morning glory flower.

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About 120 producers of morning glories and about 100 festival stalls line Shingen-ji Temple and Kototoi-dori Street. Shingen-Ji is the common name for the Iriya temple, dedicated to the goddess of childbirth and children. The morning glories of Iriya are said to have gained fame around the late Edo period (1603 – 1868). During the Meiji period the flowers from Iriya were deemed so attractive that they became a very popular decorative plant.

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The flowers vanished for a while during the Taisho period (1912 – 1926) and after World War II. But the flowers are back thanks to a dedicated team of locals and nowadays there are about a thousand varieties of morning glories. Together with the the Shitaya Tourism Association they revived the tradition and organized the Asagao Matsuri as we know it today.

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When you visit the Iriya Asagao Matsuri you will get the traditional Edo summer festival feel as you gaze upon the beautiful morning glories.

Access

Date: Jul. 6 to 8, 2016
Area:1-12-16 Shitaya, Taito-ku / In and around Iriya Kishimojin
Access: 1-minute walk from Iriya Station on the Hibiya Subway Line or a 5-minute walk from JR Uguisudani Station.
Hours: 6am – 11pm
URL: http://www.asagao-maturi.com/ (Japanese only)

The Matsuri Manual : Festival Style Guide

In Japan, it is common to attend a summer festival (Matsuri) in a traditional Japanese outfit. Men usually wear a jinbei while women wear colourful yukatas matched with a pair of geta (Japanese wooden clogs) and a drawstring bag called a kinchaku. To complete the picture, a paper fan is a popular choice as the perfect accessory. Of course you are free to wear what you want on the festival grounds. But wearing traditional Japanese clothes at a Matsuri adds to the overall experience.

Yukata

A yukata, or summer kimono, is made of hemp cloth or cotton that keeps you cool during the summer heat. It is much easier to wear than a regular kimono and young ladies may prefer the trendy mini-yukatas. Yukata are not difficult to wear at all and are easy to walk around in.

During the festival season many shops will sell yukata sets at a reasonable price and accessory shops will sell flower hairpins for cheap.

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Of course there are also men’s yukatas. These are less colorful and either have simple patterns or really flashy ones such as Japanese demons or dragons.

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Jinbei

Consisting of a top and shorts, a jinbei cools you down in the summer breeze. They are mostly made of cotton. The more traditional jinbei has a striped pattern with a simple colour such as black, grey or brown.

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Kinchaku

These small Japanese drawstring bags can be made of hemp fabric, cotton or recycled kimono cloth. To be really fashionable, buy a kinchaku with the same pattern as your yukata. Tie a bowknot to close the bag, and carry it by its strings. Since yukata do not have any pockets and carrying a regular purse with a yukata kind of ruins the traditional image, a kinchaku is a must-have.

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Uchiwa and Sensu

Go for a casual uchiwa (round paper fan) or a classy sensu (folding fan). Tuck it in your obi (yukata belt) when not in use. To look like a local, tuck the uchiwa in the back and the sensu in the front of the belt.

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Now let’s all head out in yukata and enjoy the summer!

Next in this series: The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide

Gion Festival: A matsuri of “moveable art museums”

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A Kyoto summer without the Gion Festival would be like imagining the ancient capital without all its beautiful art and architecture. Fortunately, at this festival – one of Japan’s three biggest – you can gaze upon a procession of towering two-story floats so elaborately decorated with ornate tapestries they’re called “moveable art museums”!

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Centered around Yasaka Shrine and the nearby streets just west of the Kamo River in Kyoto, this month-long festival (July 1-31) includes parades, mikoshi (portable shrine) processions, theatre and music performances, as well as the displaying of these beautiful floats, known as yamaboko. The two yamaboko parades are the highlight of this annual festival, as 23 of them appear for the parade on July 17th, as well as 10 more for the one on July 24th. 

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Be especially amazed at the larger hoko variety of these floats, having massive two-meter tall wheels, and weighing up to 10 tons. With entire musical ensembles sitting on the second story, it’s no wonder these hoko require up to 50 people to pull! And in case you’re wondering what’s on top, these long spear-like poles are raised to appease the gods of disease and calamity, which was the original purpose when this festival began as a purification ritual in the 9th century. 

Yet the true beauty of these gigantic floats is in the detail of the woven fabric, dyed textiles, and vivid colors of the the artwork that adorns these yamaboko. Seeing them on the street isn’t close enough? Head to the Yoiyama evening festivities starting three days prior to both parades, where these floats are stationed for you to gaze upon leisurely. Of course, with the appetizing aroma from food stalls nearby, along with crowds of celebrating festival participants, you just might get drawn away into the evening excitement!

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Gion Festival:
Dates: Jul. 1 – Jul. 31, 2016
Time: Hours vary depending on the events of the day.
Yamaboko parades on July 17, 9am – 11:30am; July 24, 9:30am – 11:30am.
Yoiyama festivities take place on July 14-16, 6pm-11pm; July 21-23, 6pm-11pm.
Access: JR Tokyo Station to JR Kyoto Station via Tokaido Shinkansen, Kyoto Station to Shijo Station via Kyoto City Subway Line. Festivities (including the parades), and the Yasaka Shrine are located along Shijo Dori, connected to Shijo Station. 

Benibana – Japanese Safflower

The Benibana is grown in Yamagata prefecture in Japan and this little flower can do more than you would think. The inhabitants used the flower’s potential to turn Yamagata prefecture into an important place for luxury goods. Back in the old days the flower was mainly used as dye but now they also turn it into food products. Geisha from Kyoto would paint their lips with Benibana and rich nobles wore kimono dyed with the flower.

With the development of synthetic dyes during the Meiji period the demand for Benibana declined and the industry became much smaller. However, the flower still grows in Yamagata prefecture and the traditional process of turning these flowers into beautiful dye is very interesting.

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How to use Benibana

The safflower is an annual (sometimes biennual) plant. They bloom during the summer and are a beautiful shade of yellow and red. After gathering all the flowers, they are locally processed into a pulpy state called Benibana mochi. From this product the treasured dye can be extracted. Benibana actually contains only 1% of red while the other 99% is yellow. To get the red from the Benimochi, you must boil it so that all the yellow parts can be removed. This Benimochi was also easier to transport than a finished product and it gave the buyer more freedom in what color to use.

The Benimochi was transported by land or shipped by river boat down the Mogami River to the port of Sakata near the Japanese sea. From here it was shipped to Kyoto where it was used in Nishijin textile making and the manufacturing of lipstick and cosmetics. The red part of the flower was the most valued color, so it comes to no surprise that with only 1% of it in the flower it was the most expensive. Today, rouge to paint only your lower lip in a flower shape would cost you 500 yen and a full lips cost about 2,000 yen. It was also possible to get a pink color from the Benimochi. In Heian period, a roll cloth of a deeper red dyeing was said to be equal to a residence of noble men. This tells us that clothes dyed with Benibana were priceless in the old days.

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photos from Marugotokan Beni No Kura

The ship you can see clearest on the picture bears the marking of an old Benibana store that still exists today. This shop is called Marugotokan Beni No Kura and now helps to promote the local products of Yamagata all over Japan. When the Marutani Hasegawa family still runned the shop as a Benibana storehouse it was the commercial hub for Yamagata-city.

Benibana & Hanagasa Matsuri

The Benibana Matsuri takes place in June or July, depending on the harvest of the Benibana. The collected flowers are processed during demonstrations and Benibana cuisine is served to visitors. Beautiful floats are paraded through the city of Yamagata. Try your hand at lip cream making or fabric dyeing with Benibana.

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The Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri attracts more than 1 million spectators over three days in August and is now considered one of the major festivals of the Tohoku area in Japan. Dancers wearing the same outfit per group and holding hanagasa hats adorned with Yamagata Prefecture’s unique safflowers parade through the main street of Yamagata City. A total of 10,000 dancers participate in this dance every year. The parade is led by gorgeously decorated festival floats. The dancers shout ‘Yassho! Makkasho!’, this not only heightens the festival mood but it is also a phrase from a traditional Yamagata folk song.

The dancing has gradually changed over the years. In the past, dancers would mostly perform synchronized dance moves but today dance performances come in a wide variety, like twirling the hanagasa hats and other creative performances.

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Benibana today

The Benibana flowers serves as the symbol of Yamagata and is an important part of the prefecture’s culture. Students graduating from Elementary and Middle School make paper Benibana and wear them during the graduation ceremony. The dye is still used to make beautiful yellow, pink and red and now the locals even make soumen from the young leaves of the flower. Yamagata truly knows how to use the flower to its full potential, just like their ancestors before them.

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Local mascot Beni-chan
Local mascot Beni-chan

Yamagata Benibana Festival

Address: Shimo-Higashiyama 1360, Yamagata (Yamagata Takase Community Center)
Date: Mid July, 2016
Access: A 20-min walk from Takase Station (JR Senzan Line)

Owara Kaze no Bon Festival

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Owara Kaze no Bon: Enchanting evening wind festival

For a dreamlike festival under the darkness of night, the Owara Kaze no Bon will take you on a time slip to Toyama’s traditional past.

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Unlike many upbeat and celebratory festival dances, this one is much more solemn. Don’t expect any shouting or cheering here, in fact, the streets are silent except for the shutter of cameras as the dancers move gracefully to the melancholic tunes of the kokyu – a Chinese violin rarely used in Japanese folk music – as well as the shamisen and slow rhythmic beat of small taiko drums.

This mesmerizing performance takes place from Sept. 1-3 at the sleepy hillside village of Owara in southwestern Toyama. Both a bon festival welcoming ancestral spirits in the summer, and a ceremony to protect against strong winds (kaze) that damage crops, this celebration has been passed on for 300 years.

However, the festival never fails to bring about a typhoon of tourists, as nearly 300,000 come here to watch 11 local dance units perform on stages, and throughout a 3 km street course over three nights.

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The festival starts from around 3pm (except the third night), and carries on until 11pm. As the sun sets, thousands of crafted paper lanterns pave the path for the performers, dimly lighting the rustic townscape with its peach and golden hues.

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With faces veiled by braided straw hats, the participants move to one of three dances: the older Honen odori dance, or the newer men’s and women’s dance.

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Women dressed in colorful yukata (summer kimono) with traditional black sashes portray the four seasons through their graceful strokes and strides.

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Men on the other hand, mimic farming movements in their “scarecrow dance”, boldly stepping and swaying in their happi coats.

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With the backdrop of latticed-door houses and ancient temples, smaller units simultaneously perform throughout the town. The sight will surely make you feel as though you’ve been transported to another world. So as the summer comes to a close, why not breeze on by for a few nights of otherworldly entertainment?

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Access: A 40-min walk from Etchuyatsuo Station (JR Takayama Line)

Aomori Nebuta Festival: Week Long Street Party

Every night this week till Friday, the sleepy streets of Aomori city roar into life with the chants of “ra-se-ra, ra-se-ra, ra-se-ra-se-ra-se-ra!” and thousands of feet spring off the ground as they dance to the rousing beat of drums – all because the nebuta are in town.

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In fact, the festival from over 400 years ago has its roots in chasing away sleepiness, as farmers of old believed that they were haunted by a sleep demon especially while busy mid-summer season, and so started a festival called “nemu-nagashi” to drive away sleepiness (or “nemu”).

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Nebuta now refers to giant lantern floats of around 7m tall, which are made of delicate washi paper plastered on a metal and bamboo frame. These are manually pushed around the route by participants, and ardent fans of the parade (and floats) can be heard shouting “kochi muite!”, which means “look over here!”. If the shouts are passionate enough, the float leader will signal for the float to face that side of the crowd, resulting in even higher pitched screams and squeals.

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Around a hundred “haneto” dancers wearing woven straw hats decorated with flowers lead the way of each nebuta, shouting “ra-se-ra, ra-se-ra!” to the crowds, who resound with the chorus “ra-se-ra-se-ra-se-ra!”, reminding one of a school sports event – except everyone is cheering for the same team.

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Anyone can take part in the parade, as long as you wear the haneto outfit, and are ready to shout and dance for the two-hour length of the parade. The haneto also carry with them lots of bells which are thrown out to delight the audience.

In the local dialect, participation in the festival is inquired using the verb haneru, as in “Are you going to haneru today?”, which was derived from the Japanese spelling of the haneto costume and the verb haneru which means to “jump”.

Drummers keep the beat of the parade throughout, and one’s heart can’t help but race at the uniform sound of the contingents of drummers spread out between the nebuta.

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During the nebuta season from Aug 2-7, do not be surprised to see fierce-looking goldfish hanging around everywhere, from shops to the train station and along the streets. This is the official nebuta mascot of the festival – the kingyo nebuta, or literally, goldfish nebuta.

The festival, which was designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1980, attracts the most tourists of any of the country’s nebuta festivals, and is counted among the three largest festivals in the Tohoku region.

This is definitely one festival for the bucket list, so catch it while you can!

Location: Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
Dates: Aug. 1 – Aug. 7, 2016
Hours: 6pm – 9pm (Aug. 1), 7:10pm – 9pm (Aug. 2 to 6), 1pm – 3pm, 7:15pm – 9pm (Aug. 7)

Awa Odori: Japan’s Biggest Dance Festival

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“It’s a fool who dances and a fool who watches! If both are fools, you might as well have fun dancing!”

The lyrics to the Awa Odori’s thematic “Fool’s Song” are a fitting invitation to join Japan’s largest dance festival, where it is said that as long as you can raise your hands and move your feet forward you are doing the 400-year-old folk dance.

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Every year on Aug. 12-15, Tokushima city (formerly known as Awa) in Tokushima Prefecture turns into a huge dancing platform. Numerous dancing groups (“ren”) from around the country and even overseas descend upon this usually sleepy small town for this summer matsuri that welcomes the souls of ancestors during the Bon season.

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Men wear what’s called a happi coat, don a headcloth in the stereotypical manner of a thief and dance in exaggerated motions – sometimes the drunk, and sometimes playing the fool, while women cut a much more elegant figure in a yukata and crescent-moon shaped straw hat with graceful rhythmic motions. Selected professional groups perform on elaborate indoor stages during the daytime, and there are temporary outdoor enbujo or performance stages set up throughout the city.

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The highlight of this festival is in the evening when the city center streets start pulsing with thousands of frolicking dancers adorned in colorful yukata uniforms moving as one across parks, closed-down streets and plazas. Feel your pulse raise in tune to the hypnoptic cries of “Erai yatcha erai yatcha yoi-yoi-yoi-yoi!” resounding across the city, accompanied by gongs, beating drums and the tunes of flutes and shamisen.

Choose from paid or free viewing locations to watch and snap this revelry, or several Odori Hiroba (dance plazas) where you can feel the energy as you circle around the dancers up-close, and even an Odori Road along which groups dance their way from stage to stage.

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Yet as the lyrics of the song suggest, the best way to participate in the heated excitement is by taking to the streets yourself and become a dancing “fool”!

Awa Odori

Date: Aug. 12 to Aug. 15, 2016
Location: Dances are performed at various venues including ASTY Tokushima and Tokushima Arts Foundation for Culture.
Time: 11am, 3pm and 7pm (ASTY Tokushima), 11pm, 1:30pm and 4pm (Toushima Arts Foundation for Culture).

Access: JR Tokyo Station to JR Okayama Station via Tokaido Shinkansen, JR Okayama Station to Takamatsu (Kagawa) Station via JR Marine Liner 29, Takamatsu (Kagawa) Station to Tokushima Station via Limited Express Uzushio 13. A 5-min walk from JR Tokushima Station.

Tenjin Matsuri: Osaka’s Festival of Fire and Water

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If you are in Osaka tomorrow, you can catch this rare scene of a women-only contingent carrying a 200kg mikoshi (portable shrine) at the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street. This is the lead up to Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri – one of Japan’s Big Three Festivals along with Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Tokyo’s Kanda Matsuri.

Also known as the Festival of Fire and Water, this is like a two-day buffet spread of festivities including a dynamic street parade, rousing water procession and traditional cultural performances on floating stages, topped off with a dazzling fireworks display.

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The actual festival starts from 4am of July 24th at Tenmangu Shrine with drumming and the opening of the shrine gate, and some rites both at the shrine and on a boat on the river. After which, a parade with over 3,000 participants including drummers, paraders dressed as imperial guards on horseback, lion dancers and umbrella twirlers take to the streets from the shrine.

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After the adrenaline-charged and rowdy street procession, viewers can cool off by the river with serene performances of bunraku (traditional puppet theatre) and noh (traditional masked theater) performed on stages on the boats.

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On the second day of this festival, the excitement goes up a few notches as the Land Procession heads out from the Tenmangu Shrine towards the Okawa River.

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The highlight of this festival is no doubt in the evening when the parade transitions from land to river. The Boat Procession comprises around 100 boats for a 7km course over 2-3 hours, and ends with a fireworks display with over 5,000 bursts.

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This all-in-one matsuri which combines the elements of water and fire, day and night, noise and calm is a great way to experience the over-the-top and bigger-and-better spirit of Osaka over two days.

Tenjin Matsuri:

Date: Jul. 24 and 25, 2016
Time: Various events from July 24 4am-7pm, July 25 1:30pm-10:30pm; Land Procession: July 25 3:30pm-5:30pm; Boat Procession: 6pm-9pm; Fireworks Display: 7pm-9pm.
Address: 2-1-8 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka
Access: A 5-min. walk from Osaka Tenmangu Station (JR Tozai Line)

Photo Credit: (C)Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau, (C)Japan National Tourism Organization

Asagaya Tanabata Festival, larger than life

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How a traditional Chinese festival became Japanese street art

Orihime and Hikoboshi are two lovers that represent the Vega and Altair star respectively. Normally the Milky Way separates them, but only once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month of the old lunar calendar, they are allowed to be together for a brief time.
In a nutshell, this is the story behind Tanabata, a Japanese festival that originates from the Chinese festival Qixi.
nl20120701In modern Japan, Tanabata is celebrated by hanging wishes on a bamboo tree. These wishes are traditionally written in Tanzaku, a small rectangular paper used for Japanese poetry. Bring a ladder for urgent wishes, as it is said that the higher the wish is hung on the tree, the greater the chance it will come true!
Wishes hanging in a Tanabata bamboo tree usually come in five colors, representing the five basic elements that make up the world according to ancient Chinese philosophy, resulting in beautifully decorated trees that can teach some Christmas trees a lesson or two.


From as early as July 7 to the end of August, various Tanabata festivals are held throughout Japan.
Renowned for its eccentric decorations, the Asagaya Tanabata Festival in Suginami Ward is by far Tokyo’s most famous festival of its kind.
The shopping arcade and other shopping streets near Asagaya Station will be filled with not only decorated bamboo wish trees, but also papier-mâché ornaments that come in the shape of manga characters, sports heroes, fictive space ships and pretty much anything else one can imagine.

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The over-the-topness of these imaginative creations kind of reminded me of Osaka’s larger than life billboards.

What makes this unique form of street art all the more fascinating, is the fact that most of them are creations of local children.
The Asagaya Tanabata Festival boasts a long history, with this year being the 63 time the festival is to be held. Click here for an impressive collection of the 100 most creative ornaments that have been at display throughout the last 60 years. Together with a selection of WAttention’s favorites of the last few years below, they will make you wonder what the festival has in store for us this year.

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Wait, what model is that smartphone?

 

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Not too hard to guess who this is!

 

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The local hall of fame

 

VIPs from overseas


Asagaya Tanabata Festival

Address: Asagaya Minami 1-35-18, Suginami
Access: In front of Asagaya Station (JR Chuo Line)
Period: August 5 – August 9, 2016

Summer Illumination at Meguro Gajoen

A display of Japanese lights

Meguro Gajoen is Tokyo’s longest-running wedding venue, and one of the most gorgeous, too. Its resemblance to the bathhouse of Ghibli Studio’s “Spirited Away” has often been pointed out, and we can understand as this Japanese-Western fusion style architecture with exquisite interior feels magical to say the least. With a summer illumination event being held at the venue’s historic building called Hyakudankaidan, it’s time to get spirited away!

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Hyakudankaidan consists of a 99 steps staircase of zelkova tree and 7 Japanese style rooms that formerly functioned as wedding banquets. The walls and ceilings are decorated by a total of 126 traditional Japanese paintings by well-known artists at the time the venue was built in 1935.

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During illumination event “Wa no Akari” from July 1 to August 28, the Hyakudankaidan complex will be illuminated by 12 different types of lights made of traditional Japanese paper such as ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) lanterns,  furin (summer wind-bells) shaped  lanterns and warrior floats in the fashion of Aomori Prefecture’s famous Nebuta Matsuri.

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As taking pictures is allowed, how about showing up in your yukata?

A summer illumination event alone is innovative enough, but making it indoor and Japanese style is what really catches our attention. We have to give Meguro Gajoen credit for using their historical assets this creatively!

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Meguro Gajoen “Wa no Akari”

Location: Shimo-meguro 1-8-1 Meguro, Tokyo
Access: A 3-min walk from Meguro Station (JR Yamanote Line West Exit, Tokyu Meguro Line, Nanboku Line, Mita Line)
Dates: July 1 – August 28, 2016
Entrance Fee: Adults 1,200 yen, Students 600 yen
Hours: 10am – 6pm (Sunday – Thursday) 10am – 7pm (Fridays, Saturdays)
*Last entry 30 minutes before closing.

Tokyo Bay Summer Night Cruise: The Definitive Tokyo Summer Experience

A cruise like a summer festival

The first question I asked myself after taking Tokyo Bay’s summer night cruise (available from July 1 to September 30) as a reporter, was whether or not I would hop on board again if the occasion arises. Without even a moment of doubt, I knew my answer was yes, but why? Follow my experience find out what it is that makes this cruise so special.

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I was lucky enough to hop on Tokyo Bay’s first summer night cruise of the year, and I have to tell you, viewing Tokyo’s dazzling skyline while being surrounded by yukata-clad girls is far from the worst experience I’ve had in Japan.


There’s something about yukata and a night cruise that perfectly match, creating that same sense of Japanese summer as when looking up at fireworks from the Sumidagawa riverbanks or while dancing a traditional Bon dance at a summer festival. The best way to define this cruise therefore might be “A Japanese festival on a ship.”

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Wearing a yukata on this event gives you a discount of 1,000 yen of the total entry fee of 2,600 yen, so don’t be shy to cash in on your cuteness!

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While more than 90 percent of the ladies came in yukata, it did surprise me that not even half of the guys – including myself I have to admit – had the courage to show up in yukata. That needs to change as a yukata looks just as nice on an ikemen (cool guy).

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Point proven?

By the way, guys were quite out numbered, but this was probably because only ladies in yukata where allowed to join the cruise completely free of charge to celebrate the first day, and hopefully we will see more guys in the future (in yukata, of course!).

The giant and luxury ship that usually functions as a passenger ferry to the Izu islands (a group of picturesque islands that are officially part of metropolitan Tokyo) departed Tokyo Bay at  7:15 pm for a ride of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

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Gazing at Tokyo’s towering skyscrapers, massive office buildings, trains passing by on the monorail and cars leaving light trails on the expressway from a romantic cruise-ship at night is overwhelming to say the least.

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With Odaiba’s FCG Building and ferris wheel both colored in gaudy rainbow neon lights coming closer, we passed the Rainbow Bridge after approximately 10 minutes, which was when everybody toasted to Tokyo’s night skyline with Tokyo Tower in the middle while shouting “Yakei ni Kanpai!” (cheers to the night view) as promised.

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By the way, it was only at this point that I learned that no additional fees are necessary for drinks (including beer) as they are included in the price, which makes this night cruise feel almost too cheap to be true, especially if you come in a yukata!

While we continued to make distance from the city, I started feeling cravings for matsuri (festival) delicacies. The wide array of stalls you can find inside the ship have all-time classics as takoyaki and yakisoba as well as kebab and doughnut sticks offering enough choice to satisfy pretty much any soul, and browsing through all these delicacies alone is half the fun!

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Row one from left to right: Takoyaki 400 yen, Cucumber stick 200 yen. Row two from left to right: Seafood Yakisoba 400 yen, Doughnut Stick 200 yen

Heading back to the terrace deck with a boat-shaped takoyaki plate and a beer in my hands, I noticed that the first yukata dancing show had started. From 7:45 pm to the end of the cruise, a total of 3 dancing shows can be enjoyed at terrace deck A.
Guys were cheering at cute yukata girls dancing, kind of in the fashion of an Akihabara idol group. Yes, this cruise is keeping up with today’s “live idol” trend as well!

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The other terrace decks were filled with passengers mingling with each other, toasting on the exciting evening and taking pictures together.

While in Tokyo’s everyday life it can be hard to meet new people, the majority of passengers at this cruise are here with the intention of getting to know you. Although calling it a “nanpa-sen” (a boat to pick up girls) – which some Tokyoites do – is definitely not what this event deserves, I do agree that the cruise is ideal to make new friends. Therefore, I personally prefer calling it the “friend-ship” in the hope that foreign residents and tourists alike may have a blast with the locals at this cruise.

By the time the ship had turned around to head back to the city, I was encircled by a group of great new friends myself too.


Tokyo Bay’s summer night cruise is the definitive way to experience a Japanese summer in Tokyo, and provides the chance to make new friends which can otherwise be hard in the city.

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Tokyo Bay Summer Night Cruise Information

Date: Jul. 1, 2016 – Oct. 10, 2016
Price: Adults 2,600 yen (1,000 yen discount if you come in a yukata excluding Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays)  Junior High school and High school Students 1,050 yen Elementary School School Children 550 yen (all tickets include free drinks)
Location: Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal
Adress: Kaigan 1-16-3, Minato, Tokyo
Access: A 1-min walk from Takeshiba Station (Yurikamome Line) or an 8-min walk from Hamamatsucho Station (JR Lines)
Reservation: 03-3437-6119 (Reservation in English is possible)

Aomori’s ancient festival of floats

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Larger than life lanterns at the Aomori Nebuta Festival

Ready to celebrate Japan’s ancient traditions at a matsuri of massive proportions? Grab your geta, and head up to the Aomori Nebuta Festival on Aug. 1-7, one of the most colorful and lively festivals in Japan.

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One of Japan’s Big Three Fire Festivals, this 6-day festival in Aomori city, located along the northern tip of Honshu, attracts over 3 million visitors per year – nearly 10 times the population of the city itself! Above all, locals and tourists flock here to gaze upon the enormous lantern floats (nebuta), decorated as historical and mythical characters.

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Towering as high as 5 meters and weighing up to 4 tons, locals prepare year-round to construct these intricate floats out of traditional washi paper and wire. According to tradition, this festival began by placing lanterns as offerings on the water as a purification rite, but over time the scale of these lanterns grew to their current magnitude. While originally lit by candlelight, hundreds of lightbulbs are now weaved throughout to brilliantly illuminate these multistory lanterns.

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But these visually impressive floats are just half the festival fun. Each night, over 20 of these nebuta parade along to the equally colorful haneto dancers. Draped in vibrant red and yellow sashes, these haneto are known particularly for their loud shouting and wild dancing. With up to 2,000 of them surrounding a single float, moving merrily to the beat of the taiko and tunes of the fue (traditional Japanese flute), they help create one of the liveliest festival parades in all of Japan.

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And the best part is, unlike other parades where you are limited to viewing from the sidelines, here you can actually join in the parade action yourself by renting a haneto costume (about 4,000 yen)! Regardless of experience, anyone with a haneto costume can fall in step to the enthusiastic dancing, and join the throng of thousands shouting at the top of their lungs, “Rassera! Rassera!”

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On the final evening, be sure to catch the boat parade, where the selected prize-winning nebuta are set out to sail on boats down the Aomori Bay. With 11,000 fireworks bursting above, and these gorgeous lanterns lighting up Aomori Bay below, it’s the perfect evening entertainment to say farewell to this summer festival.

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Aomori Nebuta Festival
Time: Aug. 1 Festival Eve 6pm-9pm; Aug 2-6 Nighttime parade 7:10pm-9pm; Aug. 7 Daytime parade 1pm-3pm, Boat parade and fireworks display 7:15pm-9pm
Access: JR Tokyo Station to Shin-Aomori Station via Tohoku Shinkansen, Shin-Aomori Station to Aomori Station via Ouu Line.
URL: Official Site

Fireworks from a different angle

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High above from the Tokyo Skytree

There aren’t that many places where you can look down at one of Tokyo’s best fireworks shows – but the Tokyo Skytree is one of them.

The Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival – Tokyo’s oldest fireworks festival – is often referred to as one of “Tokyo’s big three firework festivals” together with the Tokyo Bay and the Edogawa Fireworks Festival. And the Tokyo Skytree nearby provides an amazing vista of this fireworks show with around 20,000 shots of fireworks over 2 hours.

Of course, looking up in awe at these colorful explosions while sitting along the riverbanks is a classical experience. However, if you want to look at things from a different angle (literally), try viewing it from the Tokyo Skytree, where you can look down on this festival of colors!

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The festival attracts over 700,000 people every year, making it one of the most crowded fireworks festivals in Japan. If you want to get a good viewing spot, make sure to leave your house early and plan ahead.

The 39th Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival
Date: Jul. 30, 2016
Hours: 7:05pm – 8:30pm
Location: Sumida River