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.
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 participates in these rituals together with the local priests.
The general public is entertained not only by the martial art (Sumo, Kendo, and archery) and other traditional art performances (dances and 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. For more information about the Atsuta Festival, read this post.
The festival in 2021 is canceled due to COVID-19 (except for the Shinto rituals that will be performed).
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.
The Nagoya Port Festival isn’t limited to 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 festival. 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.
Due to the Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place this year, the Nagoya Port Festival has been rescheduled to October 3, 2021.
Ichinomiya Tanabata Festival
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 four 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 colored paper and hang it on one of the wishing trees made from bamboo decorated with papercrafts.
Although events like the Bon dances will not take place this year, you can still admire the decorations and also hang your wish in certain locations.
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
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 6. to 8. 2021 but has been canceled due to COVID-19.
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 for 2021 has been rescheduled to take place in October. However, no exact date has been set yet because it could be canceled partially or altogether.
Owari Tsushima Tenno Festival
One of Japan’s three major river festivals, 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 six 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 24. and 25. 2021 but has been canceled due to COVID-19.
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 their 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 are when they make a spectacular plunge into the sea where they continue a kind of dance in the water.
This year’s Toyohama Sea Bream Festival has been canceled due to COVID-19.
Okazaki Castle Hero Ieyasu Summer Festival & Fireworks
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.
Depending on the COVID-19 situation, the festival may take place in Autumn this year (2021).
Toyohashi Gion Festival and Fireworks
The Toyohashi Gion Matsuri goes on for four days, commencing on the third Thursday of 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 have been canceled due to COVID-19.
Nippon Domannaka Festival
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. As for 2021, this year’s Domatsuri will be a hybrid event. Although some events are scheduled to take place in the city, their scale will be reduced considerably. 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
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.
For the moment, Kariya Mando Festival 2021 is scheduled to take place on September 18. and 19., if the situation allows it.
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 is supposed to be held on August 28. and 29. 2021 but it is unsure yet whether it will actually take place.
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 are scheduled to take place from June 5. to September 4., with the final dance competition on September 25. and the fireworks on September 26. 2021.
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 2021 is scheduled to take place in the beginning of August. Exact dates have yet to be announced.
World Cosplay Summit
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.
This year’s World Cosplay Summit will be a hybrid event on August 7. and 8. 2021. Cosplay events will take place in the Sakae district of Nagoya and the “World Cosplay Championship Video Division” online. Both events will be streamed live for you to join as well.
Find out more about the World Cosplay Summit here.
This post has last been updated in June 2021.
Although we strive to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information possible, please note that changes may occur nonetheless. Therefore, we recommend you confirm any relevant information such as event cancelations or changes, opening hours, or possible restrictions using a direct source. Please keep in mind that these sources might be in Japanese only.
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