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Cool off with Summer Festivals

tokyobay3-2By Richenda Elledge

Despite the sweltering heat, summer is an exciting season in Japan. From catching gigantic beetles and tuning in to the cicadas’ last song,  to relaxing on the beach digging into a kakigori (shaved ice flavored with syrup), it wouldn’t be a Japanese summer without watching a display of fireworks and attending a Tanabata Matsuri (Star Festival). What better way to cool off from a summer’s day of sticky, muggy heat than to attend these events in the cool evening. The listing is given in chronological order.

hiratsukatanabataTanabata Hiratsuka Festival, Jul 3-5

In its 65th year, Hiratsuka’s Tanabata is the biggest in the Kanto region. The colourful festivities will be centered around the shopping street on the north side of Hiratsuka station. The official event will continue until 9pm on Friday and Saturday and until 8pm on Sunday.

http://www.tanabata-hiratsuka.com/

mitamimatsuriMitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine, Jul 13-16

The hottest months of summer are traditionally when Japanese commune with and honour the spirits of the dead. One such festival based around this idea is the Mitama Matsuri at the politically complex Yasukuni Shrine. Along the sando – the promenade leading to the main shrine – 30,000 lanterns are strung from towers of metal scaffolding to create a spectacular approach. As is typical with summer festivals, there is also plenty of food, beer and music. The festival runs for 4 days from Sunday, July 13th. The shrine is a 5 minute walk from Kudanshita Station on the Tokyo Metro Honzomon and Tozai Lines as well as the Toei Shinjuku Line. http://www.yasukuni.or.jp/schedule/mitama.html

adachifireworksAdachi Fireworks Festival, Jul 18

This year will be the 37th edition of the Annual Adachi Fireworks Festival, where 12,000 fireworks will go off from 7:30-8:30pm.

The festival will be held along the Arakawa River – 15 minutes from Kita-Senju Station. Pack a picnic and find a spot on the river banks – the display is visible from a variety of vantage points. The show lasts for an hour.

Please note the event will be postponed a day in the event of storms and cancelled if there are two days of storms. http://adachikanko.net/hanabi/index.html

kamakurafireworksKamakura Fireworks Festival, Jul 23

The 67th Kamakura Fireworks Festival takes place at Yuigahama on the coast of Kamakura City from 7:20pm-8:10pm on Thurs, Jul 23rd.

This would probably be a good finish to a day trip to the area to either enjoy the beach or visit the various historic temples and shrines in the area. In event of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled with no back-up day this year. http://www.kamakura-info.jp/topics/31395

showakinenfireworksShowa Kinen Park Fireworks Festival, Jul 25

The Tachikawa Showa Kinen Park Fireworks Festival will see 5,000 fireworks launched, making it a medium-sized festival by Tokyo standards. About 300 000 people attend. Expect lots of yukata and picnic baskets – it’s a nice idea to bring dinner and make an evening of it. Entrance to the park is entirely free after 6:00pm but if you paid the entrance fee to the park earlier in the day, you’d get a better viewing spot, the organisers say (over 15’s: 410 yen; under 15’s: 80 yen). Apparently it gets crowded around 5:00pm.

The nearest station is Nishi-Tachikawa or Tachikawa Station on the JR Line. http://www.tbt.gr.jp/hanabi/

sumidafireworksSumidagawa Fireworks Festival, Jul 25

This is the Motherload of all summer fireworks festivals and it takes place in Asakusa, Tokyo on Sat, Jul 25th. The fireworks kick off at 7:05pm and run for a full 90 minutes. This festival attracts massive crowds. If there is stormy weather the event will take place on the following day. http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/index_eg.html

shinjukueisa2Shinjuku Eisa Festival 2015, Jul 25

Not really a typical summer matsuri or tanabata event, but very close — Saturday, the 25th of July sees the 43rd Shinjuku Eisa Festival. Eisa is a traditional dance originating in the Okinawan islands.  The traditional costumes, dancing and drumming are quite different to what you’re likely to see in other festivals in Japan. The organisers are only expecting about 1 million people to turn up to watch!  Mind you, this is Shinjuku so you probably won’t notice the difference. http://www.shinjuku-eisa.com/

tokyobay_picmonkeyedTokyo bay Fireworks, Aug 8

Not the most public-friendly of the fireworks display but definitely one of the most stunning given the attractive backdrop comprising of Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge. The event, which kicks off from 6:50 to 8:10pm on Sat, Aug 8th, launches 12,000 shells from a barge installed in the water near Harumifuto Park. The best views are from official spots at Harumifuto Park, a 15 minute walk from Toyosu Station. Some areas are free, but it is necessary to arrive early enough to secure them. http://www.city.chuo.lg.jp/bunka/event/toukyouwanndaihanabisaimeinn.html

Photo credits: direct from organiser’s website

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