When I think of summer in Japan, I think of the 5 following things:
- Cicada – the call of these huge insects is synonymous with hot summer nights for Japanese people!
- Humidity – Not only is summer in Japan hot, but it’s also super humid!
- Aircon – The word for ‘air conditioner’ in Japanese. If you spend a summer in japan you’ll definitely develop a very dependent relationship on the air conditioner in your hotel!
- Matsuri – This is the Japanese word for ‘festival’. The number of local festivals being held across Japan sky-rockets when summer rolls around. Firework displays are particularly associated with summer!
- Yukata – These light-weight summer robe – often mistaken by tourists as kimono – are worn by Japanese people during the summer when attending summer festivals
I’ve lived in Japan for 4 years now and I’m still amazed by the sheer number of festivals that are held during summer. Fukushima Prefecture is no exception.
From the spiritual and traditional to the lighthearted and contemporary, there are so many festivals being held in Fukushima Prefecture over the next few weekends. In this blog post, I’ve tried to showcase just a handful of these, so please have a read!
Most of these are annual events, so even if you read this blog post, you should still be able to attend these events this year!
Aizu Tajima Gion Festival
An annual Shinto celebration which always takes place on July 22nd, 23rd and 24th. Aizu Tajima Gion Festival is one of three of Japan’s most spectacular Gion Festivals (the others take place in Kyoto and Fukuoka). During this festival, offerings are given to the gods at the town’s local shrine in order to ensure the safety and prosperity of the local people for the year to come.
- Date: Sunday July 22nd, Monday 23rd & Tuesday 24th 2018.
- Location: Aizu-Tajima Town (Minamiaizu).
- Highlight: Nanahokai Procession of 30 women dressed in beautiful traditional bridal kimono making their way through the streets of Aizu-Tajima on the morning of Monday July 23rd.
- Read more about this festival on my blog!
Soma Nomaoi Festival
An historic festival which was first held over 1000 years ago as a type of military training initiated by the founder of the Soma Clan. During this festival, local men and women clad in the samurai armour of their ancestors take part in processions through the streets of Minamisoma City before taking part in a number of competitions and ceremonies. This festival has grown and changed over the past 1000 years, but it still contains elements basically unchanged since its inception – a very traditional festival.
- Date: Saturday July 28th, Sunday 29th & Monday 30th 2018.
- Location: Soma City, Minamisoma City
- Highlight: This has to be the Sacred Flag Competition held on July 29th at Hibarigahara Field. Hundreds of participants on horseback compete to catch flags shot out of canons. Those who catch the flags are blessed at the local shrine.
- Price: 1000 yen to enter Hibarigahara Field on July 29th. You can pay on the day!
- Read more here on my blog here.
- More information here! Fukushima Prefecture Tourism Association Homepage
Fukushima City Firework Display
The Fukushima City Firework Display has a much shorter history than the 2 festivals mentioned above! The firework display is being held this year for the 40th time. This year’s firework festival display includes the lighting of 10,000 fireworks. It will be extra special because there will be a special celebration of Fukushima City being selected to host Softball and Baseball Games in the 2020 Olympic Games!
- Date: Saturday July 28th 2018
19:30-20:40 (You can enter the gates from 17:00. The date may be postponed in the event of bad weather. There will be an announced at about 10am regarding any plans to change or cancel the event)
- Location: Shinobugaoka Sports Park, Shinobugaoka Stadium, Shinobugaoka Ryokuchi Park in Fukushima City
- Price: 800 yen per person if you watch the fireworks from the seats prepared in Shinobugaoka Stadium
Iwaki City Firework Display
The Iwaki City Firework Display is turning 65 this year! Iwaki, on the coast of Fukushima, is a beautiful place to visit. There are so many things to do during a day trip to this city (read more here). Iwaki’s proximity to the coast makes it a lot less humid than other areas of Fuukushima! This firework display, during which 12,000 fireworks will be launched, is held to the soundtrack of pop music and movie soundtracks.
- Date: Saturday 4th August 2018
- Location: Aquamarine Park, Iwaki City
- Cost: Free.
(If you want to pay for seats, it’s likely to cost from 3000 to 6000 yen per person.)
Fukushima City Waraji Festival
During Fukushima City’s Waraji Festival, a 12 meter-long waraji (straw sandal) is paraded through the streets of the city before being being carried as part of a procession all the way to Haguro Shrine on Mt Shinobu. This festival takes place over 2 days.
Over the course of the weekend, the city centre in Fukushima City is filled with song and dance, ranging from traditional Japanese folk dances to reggae and pop-themed dances on the second day. These dances are performed by local groups, and you can sign up with a group before the festival to perform a dance! A really, really fun, uplifting summer festival that will bring a huge smile to your face.
- Date: Saturday 4th, Sunday 5th August 2018
- Location: Central Fukushima City
- Cost: Free
- More information here!
Koriyama Uneme Festival
The Uneme Festival is the most famous festival held in Koriyama City. Over 6000 people take to the streets of the city to take part in a dance parade, and absolutely huge Japanese taiko drums are played at a number of locations in the city. ‘Uneme’ is the Japanese word for ‘Maid in Waiting’, and refers to a local story from 1300 years ago, when Koriyama City was known as ‘Asaka’.
Due to a bad harvest one year, Asaka could not produce good crops. There were so few use-able crops that the area couldn’t provide the imperial court with the usual amount required of them as an offering. Members of the imperial court, including the leader, made their way to Asaka to inspect the situation. The people of Asaka pleaded with the members of the imperial court to give them an exemption from handing over what little crops they had raised, but their pleas were not listened to.
However, during a banquet held for the imperial court that evening, the daughter of the head of Asaka (the ‘uneme’) managed to woo the head of the imperial court, and convinced him to give the area a 3 year exception. This festival is a celebration of this local triumph!
- Date: Thursday 2nd, Friday 3rd, Saturday 4th August 2018
- Location: various central locations in Koriyama City
- Price: Free
- Read more here! (Koriyama City English Newsletter)
Draft Beer Festival in Otama Village
Spend a relaxing Saturday in picturesque, rural Otama Village in Fukushima Prefecture. There are a number of events including fireworks and Bon Odori dance with locals, seeing as the beer festival takes place on the same day as the village’s summer festival.
- Date: Sunday 5th August 2018
- Location: Otama Village Fureai Hiroba
- Price: Free to attend
Setoichi Pottery Market in Aizu Misato Town
This annual pottery market takes place from the early hours (3am!) in the streets of Aizu Misato Town in Aizu, on the first Sunday in August. At this pottery market, you can find lots of unique pieces made at a range of Japan’s pottery-producing areas, including – of course – Hongoyaki, which is Aizu Misato’s individual style of pottery. Other items for sale include lacquer-ware, fabric and leather goods, freshly harvested local veggies and locally made sweets!
- Date: Sunday 5th August
- Location: Aizu Hongo Toki Kaikan (This website has a map of toilets and areas to park)
- Price: Free to Attend
Kaneyama Lake Numazawa Water Festival
According to local legend, a giant serpent used to live in Lake Numazawa, in Kaneyama Town, Okuaizu. The giant serpent was supposedly defeated by a samurai called Yoshitsura Juro Sawara. Every year, the story of how Sawara defeated the serpent is retold on the surface of the water. A great opportunity to see local Japanese traditions come to life! Lake Numazawa is worth a visit even when the festival isn’t being held, as it’s a very picturesque lake in rural Aizu.
- Date: Saturday 4th, Sunday 5th August 2018 (the serpent makes its first appearance on the Saturday, and is defeated on the Sunday)
- Location: Lake Numazawa, Kaneyama Town
(it’s a 5km taxi ride from Hayato Station on the Tadami Line)
- Price: Free!
Tenkyokaku Reception Hall Public Exhibition
Tenkyokaku, a decadently-decorated former village built by Imperial Prince Arisugawa at the start of the 20th century, is an absolutely beautiful building. It’s a great place to enjoy decadent Meiji era architecture. During decided dates every year, the Reception Hall at Tenkyokaku is made open to the public along with the rest of the former villa. Definitely make the most of this opportunity to visit this luxurious villa! (You can also dress up in dresses from the Meiji era for just 520 yen at the main house!)
- Date: Saturday 4th August to Sunday 12th August 2018
- Location: Tenkyokaku, Inawashiro Town
360 yen to see the main villa
980 yen to see the Reception Hall (980 yen includes a guided tour & ‘royal tea time’. Make sure to book 2 days in advance via this online form.
- Read more on my blog here!
Iwaki City Coal & Fossil Museum Night
There’s a special event which allows visitors at Iwaki City Coal & Fossil Museum to visit the museum at nighttime! You usually have to pay to enter the museum, but if you arrive in the evening on these two days, it’s free! I love this museum and really recommend it for anyone who likes dinosaurs and learning stuff!
- Date: Saturday July 18th, Sunday 19th 2018
- Location: Iwaki City Coal & Fossil Museum, Iwaki Yumoto Onsen
- Cost: Free if you arrive after 17:30
- Read more about the museum on my blog!
Hinoemata Kabuki Performance
This is a fantastic opportunity to see traditional kabuki closed to that performed in the Edo Period in a traditional open-air Kabuki theatre in the middle of stunning rural Minamiaizu. Kabuki performances are held at this kabuki stage in Hinoemata Village 3 times a year, although the main performance is always held on August 18th. Stay overnight at a traditional inn in Hinoemata Village to experience life in rural Japan.
- Date: Saturday 18th August 2018
Entry to the theatre starts at 18:00. Performance starts at 19:00
- Location: Hinoemata Village, Minamiaizu
- Cost: Free
- More information:
- Read more on my blog!
- More info here (Minamiaizu Travel Website)
Candlelight & Buddhist Choral Performance
Make the most of the special opportunity to see Enichi-ji Temple in Bandai Town lit up with lanterns at night at this unique event. Soak up the spiritual atmosphere and enjoy the singing and chanting of Buddhist priests in Bandai Town – the town which really instigated Aizu region of Fukushima’s close connection with Buddhism.
- Date: Sunday 19th August 2018
Entrance to the temple at 18:00. Performance time: 19:00~20:00
- Price: 500 yen
- Location: Enichi-ji Temple, Bandai Town
- Read more about Enichi-ji on my blog here!
- More info here (Fukushima Prefecture Tourism Association)
Sukagawa City Firework Display
Said to be the most popular firework display in Fukushima Prefecture. You can get to a good place to view the fireworks just a 10 minute walk from Sukagawa Train Station. The train services are increased on the day of the festival to deal with congestion of visitors, which is pretty handy. This year it’s expected that 10,000 fireworks will be used!
- Date: Saturday 25th August 2018
- Cost: Free (Viewing tables can be reserved in advance or bought on the day depending on their availability. They cost over 10,000 yen per person. There also seats that can be reserved for 2200 yen).
- Location: Sukagawa Sports Park
Kawamata Shamo Festival
A good opportunity to try shamo chicken – a local delicacy in Kawamata Town. There are lots of food stalls where you can try shamo chicken cooked in a variety of ways. Worth a visit for foodies and those interested in famous local foods!
- Date: Sunday 26th, Monday 27th August 2018
- Location: Close to Kawamata Town Chuo Town Hall
- Price: Free to attend
- Read more about Kawamata Shamo here:
I hope I’ve inspired you to visit Fukushima this summer to take part and experience some of these exciting festivals and events for yourself!
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