Three Great Festivals this August in Japan

by Luke - TripleLights travel specialist

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)

Three Great Festivals this August in Japan

(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)

Three Great Festivals this August in Japan

(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)

Three Great Festivals this August in Japan

(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 

Need help planning your trip to Japan ?

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Japan, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Japan


Plan your trip to Japan

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started

Recent Tour Reviews

“ Amazing day full of a variety of sights ”

Excellent
4 days ago Traveler: Nancy -   Tour Guide: Fujiko

My tour with Fujiko-san was fantastic! She is a great guide - friendly, knowledgeable and always making sure her customers are enjoying their tour. She was very flexible when setting the itinerary, taking into account all of the places I wanted to see and my interests, resulting in a large variety of sights throughout the island. She knows a lot about Sado Island and it was so interesting to hear ...
read more

“ Eiichi was a pleasure. ”

Excellent
3 weeks ago Traveler: Scott -   Tour Guide: Eiichi

Eiichi was very friendly and came well prepared for everything I had communicated to him that I wanted to see and do. His English is excellent and I never felt embarrassed to ask him to repeat or to repeat my questions. I HIGHLY recommend Eiichi to anyone, especially those English speakers, that want a private guide and are interested in Japanese culture.
read more

“ in depth tour of Zojo-ji ”

Excellent
1 month ago Traveler: Prasanna -   Tour Guide: Kazuharu

We were looking for an in-depth understanding of Zojo-ji, and it is not one of the popular spots in Tokyo. Kazuharu prepared and came with lots of notes and tried his best to answer all our questions. He was patient and enthusiastic.
read more

“ Great virtual trip to Kyoto ”

Excellent
2 months ago Traveler: Ambika -   Tour Guide: Richard

Richard took us on a 3 hour virtual tour as we “walked with him” through places or worship, spiritual sites, the historical district and more. He was engaging, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and fun. His ability to enable us to experience Kyoto like we were there was wonderful. The cultural insights fabulous. He surpassed our expectations of a virtual tour by a huge margin.
read more

“ Kiriko is the best!! ”

Excellent
3 months ago Traveler: Bryce -   Tour Guide: Kiriko

I had an amazing time in Kyoto with Kiriko! It was a difficult time to plan a tour because a lot of places were closed due to the coronavirus, but she put together a great itinerary of cool places that I hadn't seen yet during my time in Kyoto. She even found the one nighttime temple illumination that was still open! After the sightseeing was finished she took me to a great restaurant to try K...
read more

“ A trully unique view of Japan ”

Excellent
4 months ago Traveler: Catarina -   Tour Guide: Richard

Our day with Richard was so outstanding that we are already planning a return trip to Japan, but only if he tags along for the whole trip. His knowledge of history is very impressive, his musings about Budhism are enlightening and his easy conversation with the locals makes anyone feel welcome in the hidden spots that no ordinary tourist would be able to reach; his disposition for a full day o...
read more

“ Great experience ”

Excellent
4 months ago Traveler: Nicholas -   Tour Guide: VAN transportation

Excellent all around. The booking, customer service and communication with teh driver was first class. The pick up was slightly delayed our end but the diver was most patient and drove very well...thumbs up! Nick, Hiroshima
read more

“ Day tour of Osaka ”

Excellent
4 months ago Traveler: Jamie -   Tour Guide: Aimu

I had a great tour with Aimu, getting to visit all the locations that were suggested on the itinerary. Slightly unfortunate that some of them were closed (due to Covid-19) but Aimu just found more locations to visit on the go which suited me perfectly fine, as I like to just sort of explore randomly. Her knowledge on the history of where we went was fascinating and meant I learnt more about the ar...
read more

“ Fantastic time ”

Excellent
4 months ago Traveler: Gretchen -   Tour Guide: Kaori

Kaori is fantastic. We are a family of 2 adults, 2 kids from HI. Kids are 8 and 6. Kaori adjusted skillfully to everyone's wishes and we got to see, learn and taste so much. If we go back to this area, we will hire her again! Wonderful experience.
read more

“ Great tour with Tomomi ”

Excellent
4 months ago Traveler: Giovanny -   Tour Guide: Tomomi

The one day tour around the Aokigahara Forest (including the Wind and Ice cave) was amazing. The beauty of the place is unique. Regarding Tomomi, she was such a nice and helpful. All the explanations provided by Tomomi during the tour made the experience really interesting and wonderful. Highly recommend. Tomomi, thank you for the tour!
read more

Related cities

Plan your trip to Japan

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started