15 Unforgettable Summer Festivals in Nagoya

Finally, summer is here! And with the arrival of the hot weather, we are ready to have some fun! Summer inspires some of the great festivals around Japan and provides fantastic opportunities to experience culture, music, art, drinks and food.

The Japanese summers are synonymous with great festivals, Obon dances, and spectacular fireworks displays. 

Everyone dresses up in their most beautiful Yukata and is looking forward to the popular festival foods such as Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, Yakisoba, glazed Apples and Strawberries, Castella, Taiyaki, Kakigori, and many many more.

Festival booths selling toys, and offering games where you can catch real goldfish are another highlight especially popular with young children.

In and around Nagoya you will find a summer festival or three on almost every weekend between June and August. Here is a list of the top Nagoya festivals to experience in summer.

Atsuta Festival

Atsuta Jingu Matsuri

The Atsuta Festival or Atsuta Matsuri is the biggest of many festivals held at the Atsuta Shrine throughout the year. It is held each year on the 5th of June and revolves around ancient Shinto rituals to welcome the summer. The emperor’s envoy will participate in these rituals with the local priests.

The general public is entertained not only by the martial art (Sumo, Kendo, archery) and other traditional art performances (dances, drums) but also by the delicious food at the festival stalls and a spectacular firework display at night. The 365 lanterns Kento Makiwara floats are another highlight that brightens up the night.

The festival on June 5. 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19 (except for the Shinto rituals that were performed). The next Atsuta Festival will be held on June 5. 2021.

Nagoya Port Festival

Nagoya Port Festival

At the Nagoya Port Festival, on Umi no Hi (Marine Day) a public holiday on the third Monday of July around 3000 fireworks light up the night sky and the scenic Nagoya port area.

But the Nagoya Port Festival isn’t only a fireworks display. It starts at around noon with the rafters’ contest where men balance on tree trunks in the water trying to stay on the longest without falling off.

Other forms of entertainment throughout the day are dance and drum performances, live music, and a Bon dance in which anyone can participate from around nightfall. Food is another form of entertainment at any Japanese festivals and the many festival stands sell delicious foods and snacks to the festival-goers before the actual fireworks start at around 7:30 p.m. The fireworks display is a composition of light and sound and lasts for roughly one hour.

The Nagoya Port Festival was supposed to be held on July 23. 2020. and has been canceled due to COVID-19. The next festival will be held on July 19. 2021.

Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival

Ichinomiya Tanabata Matsuri

The Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival, also known as Star Festival or Textile Thanksgiving is one of the biggest festivals of its kind in Japan. It is a festival to show gratitude to the deity of Hatori Shrine, the god of textiles. As the leading industry in Ichinomiya is textiles, the Textile Thanksgiving festival has been an important one since its first installment in 1956.

The festival lasts for 4 days from the last Thursday to the last Sunday in July and includes beautiful gigantic paper decorations called Fukinagashi, and handmade decorations made by children in the city.

Events such as parades and Bon dances, as well as stage shows are held throughout the city on the four days of the festival. Don’t forget to write your wish for the year on a strip of paper and hang it on one of the wishing trees made from bamboo and decorated with papercrafts.

The Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival was supposed to be held on July 16. to 19. 2020 but has been canceled due to COVID-19. The next festival will be held on July 22. to 25. 2021.

If you want to learn more about Tanabata in general, the story and history of it and the best way to experience it around Nagoya and at home, read this post.

Anjo Tanabata Festival

Anjo Tanabata Festival

The Tanabata Festival in Anjo city is another excellent Star Festival close to Nagoya. Held over 3 days at the beginning of August each year and attracting more than one million visitors. The festival has music and dance performances, parades, local idols, and even its own mascot, a wish fairy called KI-BO-.

Throughout the city, more than 1,000 bamboo wishing trees are set up so you can write your Tanabata wish on a ‘Tanzaku’ paper strip and hang it.

At night you can not only experience Bon dancing but the illuminated bamboo trees are a truly wonderful sight as well.

The Anjo Tanabata Festival was supposed to be held from August 7. to 9. 2020 but has been canceled due to COVID-19. The next festival will be held from August 6. to 8. 2021.

Nakagawa Goldfish Festival

Nakagawa Goldfish Festival

The Nakagawa Goldfish Festival or Nakagawa Kingyo Matsuri as it is called in Japanese, is held each year for two days at the end of July in Nakagawa Ward of Nagoya.

The festival includes a parade where a gigantic goldfish shaped Mikoshi (portable shrine) is carried through the streets, as well as performances such as Taiko drums, dances, idol group performances, and more.

You might have wondered why it is a goldfish festival. When it was first started after World War II the festival collaborated with a goldfish dealer, and rare goldfish were put on display during the festival. This established the image of goldfish for the festival and has been the main theme ever since.

The Nakagawa Goldfish Festival was supposed to be held on July 25. and 26. 2020 but has been canceled due to COVID-19. The next festival will probably be held on July 24. and 25. 2021.

Owari Tsushima Tenno Festival

Owari Tsushima Tenno Matsuri

One of the three major river festivals of Japan, the Owari Tsushima Tenno Festival is held each year on the 4th Saturday and Sunday of July in Tsushima not far from Nagoya. With its 500 year history, it is designated a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset. 

The festival takes place on the Tenno River and lasts from 6 at night to the next day. The ‘Yomatsuri’ Night Festival lights up the night with its five beautiful Makiwara Boats decorated each with around 400 lanterns. The boats float down the river accompanied by drum and flute music.

While you can view this procession from one of the river banks the best view is from one of the smaller boats also drifting down the river for the occasion.

The ‘Asamatsuri’ Morning Festival also takes place on the river, with the same boats but redecorated in gorgeous red, black, and gold hand-woven tapestries and mannequins dressed in traditional Noh performing arts costumes. 

The Owari Tsushima Tenno Festival was supposed to be held on July 25. and 26. 2020 but has been canceled due to COVID-19. The next festival will be held on July 24. and 25. 2021.

Toyohama Sea Bream Festival

Toyohama Sea Bream Festival

The Toyohama Tai Matsuri (Toyohama Sea Bream Festival) is an annual festival held to pray for maritime safety and a plentiful catch in Toyohama, a city not too far from Nagoya. The date of the festival depends on the tides of the sea close to Toyohama and is held sometime in mid to late July.

Each of the five city wards makes its own sea bream from wood, bamboo, and dyed cotton cloth to be carried through the town by men, accompanied by smaller fish carried by the children. The five sea breams meet for a fight at the seaside. The first day ends with some spectacular fireworks.

On the second day of the festival, it is more of the same, the fish are carried around, and come together to fight. The highlight and end of the festival is when they make a spectacular plunge into the sea where they continue a kind of dance in the water.

The Toyohama Sea Bream Festival was supposed to be held on July 25. and 26. 2020 but has been canceled due to COVID-19. Next year’s festival date has not been decided yet.

Okazaki Castle Hero Ieyasu Summer Festival & Fireworks

Okazaki Fireworks
Image via Okazaki Castle Ieyasu Summer Festival Guide

The Okazaki Joka Ieyasu-ko Natsu Matsuri or Okazaki Fireworks Festival for short is held each year from the end of July to the beginning of August, with the fireworks on the first Saturday of August in Okazaki city the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu the first Tokugawa Shogun and unifier of Japan.

The 2-hour fireworks display of around 20,000 fireworks is the absolute highlight of this summer festival. More than 70% of the fireworks used during the festival are produced locally by fireworks producer Mikawa. As it can get really crowded it is best to reserve your seat at the banks of the Oto River one day early or pay for a seat to get the best views.

On the days before and after the fireworks in different places around Okazaki city, other festival events take place including processions, dances, shows, and more. 

The whole Okazaki Castle Hero Ieyasu Summer Festival & Fireworks was supposed to be held on multiple days from the end of July and beginning of August with the fireworks on August 1. 2020. Due to COVID-19, the whole festival has been canceled. Next year’s festival will be held from the end of July to the beginning of August 2021 with the fireworks on August 7. 2021.

Toyohashi Gion Festival and Fireworks

Toyohashi Gion Matsuri

The Toyohashi Gion Matsuri goes on for 4 days on the third Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in July each year. It is the largest but not the only festival of its kind in the Mikawa region where brave men launch hand-held fireworks up to 10 meters into the air.

The festival started in Sengoku Period when the local lords around Yoshida Castle gave the hand-held fireworks as offerings to Yoshida Shrine. They used this to pray for a plentiful harvest and good health.

Aside from the hand-held variation, you can also enjoy the more familiar fireworks launched into the air. The 12,000 fireworks display is the biggest in the region.

On the third day, the festival continues with local traditional dance performances, as well as a procession of Mikoshi shrines, parades, and distribution of Manju (sweet buns).

The Toyohashi Gion Festival and Fireworks were supposed to be held between July 16. to 19. 2020 but has been canceled due to COVID-19. The next festival is scheduled for July 15. to 18. 2021.

Nippon Domannaka Festival

Domatsuri 2019

The Nippon Domannaka Festival or Domatsuri for short takes place every year for 3 to 4 days at the end of August in Nagoya. It is a dance festival and the largest festival of its kind in the central Japan region.

Dance groups from all over Japan, and even across the world gather together in a dance competition, a spectacle of music and color. Each group tries to present their local culture through their costumes, music, and dance.

The festival started in 1999 with 26 teams but has since grown to a spectacle that draws 210 teams with a total of more than 23000 performers and 1.85 million viewers.

The Nippon Domannaka Matsuri 2020 was turned into an online event. Held from August 28. To 30. You will be able to watch live streams on Youtube wherever you are in the world and even participate yourself.

Find out more about the Nippon Domannaka Festival by reading this post.

Kariya Mando Festival

Kariya Mando Matsuri

The Kariya Mando Festival is a spectacular festival taking place each year on the last Saturday and Sunday of July in Kariya not too far from Nagoya. It is similar to the famous Nabuta Festival in Aomori, just on a smaller scale.

It revolves around the so-called Mando, 5-meters tall and 60-kilogram heavy warrior dolls made from bamboo and Washi paper that are beautifully painted. These Mando are lit-up from the inside and carried around each by one young man accompanied by flute and drum music.

Seeing these colorful warrior figures dance around and brighten up the night is an unforgettable experience that has been taking place for the past 230 years in Kariya at the Akiba Shrine. The festival is held to ward off fire accidents and to keep the city safe as well as a call for rain.

The Kariya Mando Festival was supposed to be held on July 25. and 26. 2020 but has been canceled due to COVID-19. The next festival will be held on July 24. and 25. 2021.

Mikawa Isshiki Lantern Festival

Mikawa Isshiki Lantern Festival

The Mikawa Isshiki Lantern Festival is held each year in late August at Suwa Shrine in Isshiki, Nishio about 1 hour by train from Nagoya.

6 pairs of gigantic up to 10 meter high lanterns made from bamboo and Washi paper and painted beautifully are set up around the shrine and lit-up at night. It is a truly wonderful spectacle to watch the lanterns being prepared and the colorful display brightening up the night.

The festival boasts a more than 400-year history and is said to have started with the villagers of Isshiki lighting bonfires in spring and autumn each year to ward of demons. Because of the fire hazard that large bonfires present the practice was changed to creating the gigantic paper lanterns we get to admire today.

The Mikawa Isshiki Lantern Festival was supposed to be held on August 22. And 23. 2020 but due to COVID-19 has been canceled. The next festival will be held in late August 2021.

Toyota Oiden Festival

Toyota Oiden Festival

The Toyota Oiden Festival is the largest festival in the city of Toyota. Its preliminary events start sometime in June and climax in a spectacular dance finale and fireworks display at the end of September each year.

Oiden Odori is a kind of traditional dance. Local groups made up of companies, local government, friends, and family, practice a dance choreography to the traditional Oiden music with their own costumes and style. 

The great final at the end of September sees teams dancing in the city center and one of the biggest fireworks displays in the region sets the night sky ablaze.

The festival started in 1968 and was borne from the need for people to feel at home in Toyota city with a large number of people settling here to find work in the country’s largest car manufacturer. Dance and fireworks were the perfect media to get the new arrivals and the long-term residents together and make Toyota feel like home.

The festival’s local events were supposed to take place from June 13. to September 5., with the final dance competition on September 26. and the fireworks on September 27. 2020. But all of these events have been canceled due to COVID-19. Next year’s events will again be held from June with the grand finale at the end of September.

Nagoya Castle Summer Festival

Nagoya Castle Summer Festival

Nagoya Castle is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Nagoya, and in August you have the opportunity to visit it not only during the day but also at night for the Nagoya Castle Summer Festival.

This festival lasts usually for around 10 days sometime in August, and participants can enjoy Bon dancing, delicious local food, drinks and fun festival activities. The castle will be lit up so you can enjoy a stroll around the grounds, and other daily events, performances, and shows take place.

The Nagoya Castle Summer Festival in 2020 has been canceled due to COVID-19, but in its place, an event called Nagoya Castle Summer Omotenashi will be held from August 1. to 16. 2020. It includes different small events like food stalls, a small market, Japanese sun umbrella rental, and more.

World Cosplay Summit

World Cosplay Summit 2019 - Meiji Mura

Not all festivals and summer events in Nagoya are traditional, and the best example for this is the World Cosplay Summit, the biggest event of its kind in Japan, and in fact around the world.

Cosplayers from all over the world flock to Nagoya during this annual 9-day event. The Nagoya World Cosplay Summit has been held since 2003 and grows in size each year with cosplay teams from around the world competing for different titles.

The World Cosplay Summit 2020 was supposed to take place on July 25. and continue until August 2. But due to COVID-19, the format has been changed to an online event. You will be able to join the WCS online on August 1. and 2. in the form of live streams.

Find out more about the World Cosplay Summit here.

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Lena Yamaguchi
About the author

In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. Her goal is to make everyone interested in Nagoya, her adoptive home, online through her writing and offline through unique food tours.

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