In Japan, summer is synonymous with festivals.
Of course there are festivals held in every part of the world, but there is something about Japanese festivals that makes them stand out from the rest.
Needless to mention, one of the most striking features of summer festivals in Japan is the traditional Yukata.
Watching hundreds of men and women in Japanese traditional attire is an unmatched visual treat.
Here are some of my favorite summer festivals that I attended this summer in Tokyo.
1. Mitama Matsuri
One of the biggest Obon festivals, Mitama Matsuri held at Yasukuni Shrine is a festival that honors the soul of the dead.
In the daytime, there were many traditional dance performances around the shrine area; however the best part of the festival came alive at night when nearly 30,000 lanterns lit the way to the shrine.
I was surprised to discover that another major attraction in this festival was the haunted house.
The Mikoshi parade, the paintings and the dances made this festival very different from the other festivals in Japan.
It was grand and festive, yet very calming and peaceful.
2. Tōrō Nagashi
Having loved being around lanterns in Mitama Matsuri, I could not miss a chance to see another lantern festival Tōrō Nagashi.
Tōrō means lantern and Nagashi means cruise or flow.
No points for guessing, the festival consisted of paper lanterns floating in water.
Around 2,500 lanterns were set afloat on the Sumida river in Asakusa to guide the souls of ancestors to the spirited world.
One could also write a wish on a lantern and release it in water.
The brightly lit river was a perfect spot for photography lovers.
I too tried my naïve photography skills and was fortunate to get a few good clicks.
3. Fireworks Festival
Summer in Japan would not be complete without attending fireworks festival, popularly known as Hanabi.
Fireworks are held at many places in Tokyo throughout summer, but Sumida Fireworks Festival undoubtedly tops the list.
In addition to being most famous, it is also the most crowded festival, hence in order to reserve our spots, we reached a nearby park much before the fireworks’ schedule.
We munched on snacks while patiently waiting for the fireworks to begin.
It started raining heavily in the evening so we stood with raincoats and umbrellas, keeping our fingers crossed, hoping the fireworks don’t get cancelled because of rain.
Luck was on our side, as we eventually witnessed the most incredible fireworks of the season.
The beautiful and colorful sky was definitely worth all the hassle.
4. Himawari Festival
I have always been amazed by flower festivals in Japan.
I love how bunches of flowers are planted and grown in such stunning patterns, be it the red Kochia in Hitachi Seaside Park or the purple Wisteria in Azalea Flower Park.
This summer I attended another flower festival – the Himawari Festival.
Zama city, the place where this festival was held, was painted yellow with over 400,000 tall sunflowers.
There were decks set up at various heights in the plains that offered breathtaking panoramic view of the yellow sunflowers contrasting with the blue sky.
Summer has not yet ended and I am looking forward to upcoming festivals like Koenji Awa Odori, Brazil Samba Carnival and so on.
Who would like to join me for them?