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Three Great Festivals this August in Japan

Luke K.

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Luke K.

Last updated : Feb 24, 20236 min read

Things To Do

Planning a trip to Japan this August, and looking for something to do? We highly recommend adding a festival to your itinerary. We have selected the three biggest festivals that will take place in Japan during the first two weeks of August, to help you organise your travel plans:

Morioka Sansa Odori Festival (Iwate)

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(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

The sound of nimble flutes, the smart drumming of wadaiko, and the colorful costumes garbed around the performers acting in perfect order serve to excite the audience. The Morioka Sansa Odori is a festival spotlighting the Tohoku area that attracts people with its grand scale and magnificence. Its history as a large festival is a relatively short one as it only began from 1978. However, it was originally inspired from literature that has remained from the year 1780. Because of a demon that was terrorizing the castle town of Morioka, the people prayed for salvation at Mitsuishi Shrine and when the demon was ousted, there was dancing around Mitsuishi in celebration which begat the legend. Afterwards, the Sansa dance began to be performed everywhere that led to the Morioka Sansa Odori which is gaily held as a large-scale festival. All of the local organizations vie on beauty and technique through their dances and musical accompaniment for spectacular performances. Another enjoyable feature is that every team has its own choreography and costume.

The Sansa Odori is great for anyone being able to easily take part in the dancing. There is the Sansa Oherense Group in which you can participate in the parade through practice on the same day, but you have to apply by e-mail ahead of time. In that case, it is recommended to take part in Kawaru Sansa which is easier to get in. With no prior reservations required, you can take part in the training and then just enjoy the dancing. Instructors from traditional Sansa organizations will carefully guide you without any worries even if you have no experience. Participating and not just watching is even more enjoyable. A big plus is the rapport with the local people through dancing.

Admission: Free 

Dates: August 1st - August 4th

Guidebook from Planetyze about Morioka Sansa Odori Festival
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Morioka Sansa Odori Festival
Tours of Morioka Sansa Odori Festival

Yamagata Hanagasa Festival (Yamagata)

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(image by www.hanagasa.jp)

Annually from August 5th to 7th, the 3 days of the Hanagasa Festival are famous as a large-scale celebration representing the Tohoku area throughout the nation. With the high-spirited cries of “Yassho, makasho!!”, wadaiko drums grandly echo in time with the song of “Hanagasa Ondo”. The major streets of the city that make up the venue for the festival overflow with the passion of groups of dancers performing in perfect order. In front of the beautifully adorned floats, a parade is held comprised of dancers sporting hanagasa that resemble hats decorated with safflower, the prefectural flower for Yamagata. Dancing while lightly twirling the hanagasa makes for a graceful sight. That particular dance expresses the fresh wind that crosses over the Mogami River flowing through Yamagata Prefecture and the waving of the ears of rice in the paddies. Also, the song accompanying the dance, the Hanagasa Ondo, is said to have originated from a ballad sung by workers toiling outside to work in rhythm. The memories behind the history of Yamagata and the beautiful natural landscape are imbued into the dancing to create a huge summer festival with the entire citizenry as one.

Just seeing everyone from kids to grown-ups getting into various groups and taking part in the dance parades is fun enough, but there is also the Tobiiri Corner for folks who want to enjoy participating in the dance themselves. At the Corner set up near the parade goal (in front of the city hall), you can enjoy dancing in a circle without joining in the parade. Also, if you find the placard for “Tobiiri Corner” at the tail-end of the parade, that is your chance to jump into the parade itself. In either case, a teacher will provide training so even beginners can take part without any worry. It is a great opportunity to experience the culture and entertainment of the land through a festival.

Admission: Free

Dates: August 5th - August 7th

Guidebook from Planetyze about Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
Tours of Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

Yosakoi Festival (Kochi)

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(image by flickr.com)

During the four days of the festival which consist of August 9th (the festival eve), August 10th and 11th (the two main days) and August 12th (the final night/national competition), about 19,000 dancers armed with naruko (small wooden clappers) and belonging to about 200 teams parade through the downtown area while dancing to the Yosakoi Bushi within Kochi City’s 9 contest areas and 7 theaters in a passionate festival. Depending on the team, the costumes vary from the traditional happi coat to elaborately designed and unique outfits and hairstyles, and a variety of music and choreography are shown by each of the teams which arrange anything from a Japanese style to samba. The naruko which has been called the symbol of the Yosakoi was once  a farming tool whose sound used to shoo away birds from the crops, but has now been incorporated into the dance and has become one of the instruments to create the music through its clacking sounds produced by both hands. It has become an indispensable item for the Yosakoi Festival.

The festival first took place after the Second World War as the Kochi City Chamber of Commerce came up with the idea to boost the citizens’ health and prosperity. From 1999, team competitions began on a national level for the Yosakoi Prize in which a panel of 10 judges rated performances based on categories of song, dance, naruko clacking, costume and the truck with the music broadcast source (known as a jikata-sha). In addition, individual prizes were selected at all competition venues with various types of medals being awarded. The number of people taking part in a team has ranged from a record low of 4 people to a record high of 800 participants. The power and scale of a team with around 100 dancers is amazing so this carnival of passion is incredible for observers. In watching the festival, there are reserved seats which can be purchased in advance and free unreserved seats which are available on the day of the performances.

Admission: Free

Dates: August 9th - August 12th

Guidebook from Planetyze about Yosakoi Festival 
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Yosakoi Festival 
Tours of Yosakoi Festival 
Gifu Tour Guide - Akiko W.

Akiko W.

5.00 / 5
(8 reviews)

Hello! My name is Akiko from Gifu prefecture. I am a National Government Licensed Guide Interpreter. I like going out with my family, talking with my friends over coffee at a cozy cafe, reading books, baking bread and cake when I have time. I passed the national tour guide test in 2017 and have worked as a guide since then. I have guided in Gifu city, Seki city, Takayama city, Shirakawago , Mino city and Nagoya city. I have lived in Gifu for more than forty years. Gifu prefecture is rich in nature so you can enjoy the rural atmosphere. Gifu city has a beautiful river 'Nagara river' and Mt.Kinka which has Gifu castle on the top. You can go up the mountain on foot or use a ropeway. The view from Gifu castle is so fantastic. At the foot of the mountain , there are many places to visit such as parks, a temple having a big image of Buddha, and a street preserving the historic atmosphere. At Nagara River, you can enjoy seeing a traditional way of fishing ‘cormorant fishing’ which is thought to have started 1300 years ago. Many cafes have unique service called 'morning service' in Gifu along with Aichi In the morning (until about ten thirty or eleven) when you order a cup of tea or coffee, they serve toast and salad ! Near Gifu park , you can find a nice Japanese style cafe where you enjoy good coffee and seeing a Japanese style garden. Seki city is a small city but so famous for its cutlery. At Japanese sword museum in Seki, you can see authentic Japanese swords! Mino city next to Seki city is well known for its hand made Japanese paper 'Hon minoshi' designated as intangible cultural asset by UNESCO . Until recently it was not easy to guide guests because of COVID-19 pandemic; however the situation is getting better. Some strict rules about COVID-19 have been lifted. Please visit Gifu. I am looking forward to seeing you. Please feel free to ask me when you need information about Gifu. Thank you for reading my introduction.                                                                                                                                 

Shimizu Tour Guide - Sayori H.

Sayori H.

5.00 / 5
(2 reviews)

Hello, I can show you the real Japan. You can taste, see and feel the country. I'd like to show the beautiful culture for you to experience. I can organize the day tour from Shimizu port for Cruise customers. Tea ceremony, strawberry picking experience, anything you are interested, I would love to help you plan your tour. I can communicate in both English and Japanese. I look forward to welcoming people from different parts of the world. Thank you                                                                                                                                 

Shiga Tour Guide - Koichi W.

Koichi W.

4.94 / 5
(51 reviews)

Hi! I'm Koichi. I was born in Osaka, I studied in Kyoto when I was a university student. Now I live in Shiga next to Kyoto. I am a national government licensed tour guide. I have been guiding about 160 groups over the past twelve months. I usually guide my customers mainly in Kansai region including Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe and Shiga by public transportation systems. Well, I am curious about Japanese history, especially the history of Japan's ancient times since I was raised next to the world biggest mausoleum of the ancient Emperor called "Nintoku" in Sakai city Osaka which has just become one of the world cultural heritage sites. I dug out some ancient earthen ware vessels around there when I was a primary school student like the adventure archaeologist “Indiana Jones" (It’s our secret!!). That was my hobby. Now, one of my hobbies is outdoor activities such as mountaineering, kayaking, skiing and others. So I would like to take you to some good places where you can enjoy Japanese unique nature. I love to guide foreign visitors from all over the world. I think it is my calling or heavenly given job. Let's go and enjoy together! I hope to see you soon.                                                                                                                                 

Okinawa Main Island Tour Guide - Tateo U.

Tateo U.

4.99 / 5
(69 reviews)

My name is Tateo. I am officially registerd English tour guide and introducing about Okinawa's history,culture, and nature.I am elderly person but have gone through lots of expericences that happened during US occupation after WW2. For the example, change of monetary system(US dollar to Yen),Change of traffic regulation(driving vehicle from right to left).The reversion of Okinawa to main land Japan was biggest historical event.The US administered Okinawa for 27 years. As a result, thing were Americanized in many aspects. Historically, Okinawa was once independent nation until 1872.During Kingdum era, Okinawa actively traded with China, South Asia Countries, Korea, and Japan. In the end, our culture is quite differ much from main land Japan. For instance, architectural technique, daily customs, and culture are also unique. Okinawa is the only prefecture belong to subtropical climate zone. Even winter time, it's neither hot nor cold. People can enjoy marine sport all through the year.Canoeing, Kayaking, Diving, and Snorkeling are popular. Besides, beatiful white sand beaches and attractive coastline are abundant. Green sea water and blue sky have been lured people from all over the world. Traditional music and dance are worth seeing. Please visit Okinawa and enjoy extraordinary trip. I will be looking forward to seeing you soon.                                                                                                                                  

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