This is a list of festivals and other events taking place in Japan in the month of August. The list is by no means exhaustive, so please check with your colleagues, neighbours and international community centres about upcoming special events in and near your new home. The best way to beat the summer heat is to get out and enjoy the many outdoor events Japan has to offer!
Shizuoka / Yamanashi: Mount Fuji Climbing Season (July 1-August 31)
Mount Fuji’s climbing season is very short. Climb this famous symbol of Japan, and watch the sunrise from its peak. Cross one thing off your bucket list!
Gifu: Gujo Odori (mid July – early September)
Gujo Odori is one of the most popular folk dances in Gifu. Thousands of townspeople wearing “yukata” dance to the accompaniment of merry music.
Aomori: Nebuta and Neputa Matsuri (August 1-7)
Summer festivals held in towns around Aomori Prefecture. The highlight of the festival is the daily parade of enormous lantern floats, flanked by large taiko drums, musicians and dancers.
Akita: Kanto Matsuri (August 3-6)
The Kanto Matsuri (“pole lantern festival”) is a Tanabata-related celebration. The highlight of the festival is an impressive display of skill in which performers balance long bamboo poles with arrays of paper lanterns attached to the end. (Tanabata festivals are held across Japan on the 7th day of the 7th month of the year, when, according to legend, the two stars Altair and Vega cross paths. Due to differences between the lunar calendar and the solar calendar, modern tanabata festivals take place either in July or August.)
Yamagata: Hanagasa Matsuri (Floral Sedge-hat Festival) (August 5-7)
Every evening over the three day span about 3,000 dancers gather to parade down Yamagata’s main street. Dancers hold hats decorated with artificial safflowers, the official prefectural flower.
Hiroshima: Peace Ceremony (August 6)
This ceremony, held at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima City, is in memory of the A-bomb victims. In the evening, thousands of lanterns are set adrift on the Ota River with prayers for world peace.
Sendai: Tanabata Matsuri (August 6-8)
The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, held every year on August 6-8, is one of the largest and most famous tanabata celebrations in Japan.
Nagasaki: Peace Memorial Cermony (August 9)
This ceremony, held in the Peace Park in Nagasaki City, is in memory of the A-bomb victims. The mayor of Nagasaki will deliver a Peace Declaration to the world.
Okinawa Eisa Festival (mid-August)
Eisa teams from all over the islands of Okinawa gather to have Eisa battles during the festival. Eisa is a folk dance unique to Okinawa.
Tokushima: Awa Odori (August 12-15)
“Fools dance and fools watch, if both are fools, you might as well dance.” Tokushima City‘s Awa Odori is the most famous of many dance festivals held across Japan during the Obon season in mid August. “Awa” is the former name for Tokushima Prefecture while “Odori” means dance.
Throughout Japan: Obon (August 13-15)
Obon is an annual Buddhist holiday for commemorating one’s ancestors. It is believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, Obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region.
(Travel note: The Obon week in mid-August is one of Japan’s three major holiday seasons, and traffic is a nightmare. If you are travelling during Obon, reserve early and expect long waits.)
Kumamoto: Yamaga Toro Festival (August 15-16)
A parade of Toro Odori dances are performed by women wearing Yukata. Each has a lantern that is lit on her head as they walk through the streets.
Kyoto: Daimonji Bonfire(August 16)
A spectacular bonfire in the shape of the Chinese character “大” meaning large, is lit near the summit of Mount Nyoigadake. This is the most splendid attraction of the Bon Festival in Kyoto.
Sado: Earth Celebration (August 19-21)
The Earth Celebration is an annual music festival held to celebrate global culture. It is hosted by the internationally acclaimed Kodo taiko group which is based on Sado Island. Each year the festival features different guest artists who perform in collaboration with Kodo.
Nagoya: Lantern Festival of Suwa Shrine (26-27)
In Isshiki-cho, enormous brightly painted paper lanterns are paraded through the streets of Isshiki to ward off a sea demon.
Yamanashi: Fujiyoshida’s Hi Matsuri (August 26-27)
Taking place at the Fuji Sengen shrine, this festival is held to appease the goddess of Mount Fuji and to keep the volcano from erupting. It also marks the closing of the official Mount Fuji climbing season.
Some of the information above was collected from the Japan Guide website.