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 

Did you like my article?

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


10 Jul 2015

Plan your trip to Japan

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

Recent Tour Reviews

“ Great day touring Kyoto ”

Excellent
6 hours ago Traveler: Mark -   Tour Guide: Moe

Moe was a fantastic guide for our family of four (two kids 10 and 12). We were only doing a day trip from Tokyo so wanted to see a few different things in one day. More made the trip effortless, getting us to each of the sites with ease. Her ability to explain the cultural significance of some of the traditional Japanese sites made the trip that much better as there is limited English signage and ...
read more

“ Super nice and beautiful guide ”

Excellent
9 hours ago Traveler: Leshley -   Tour Guide: Tomoko

Miss Tomoko is fun to be with, She's very helpful and very nice, Will definitely call her again on our next visit here,
read more

“ Incredible tour guide ”

Excellent
21 hours ago Traveler: Jeffrey -   Tour Guide: Mari

Mari was unbelievable! She was so knowledgeable & interesting, I had left my IPad on the bullet train & she went above & beyond helping us retrieve it! We had to go to Osaka to pick it up & Mari accompanied us to make sure all went smoothly - surely this is the ultimate in kindness & professionalism. She offered alternate itineraries & we were able to be flexible as the day progressed. Mari took u...
read more

“ Kaori was awesome!!! ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Jane -   Tour Guide: Kaori

Kaori was awesome! Kaori was born and raised in Osaka so she knows all about Osaka. I did Osaka beginner's tour. I like the story and background of the area we went. She was very, very knowledgeable. She was easy going and easy to talk to. I know I will definitely will hire Kaori when I come back in a few months. Thank you, Kaori :)
read more

“ Great Guide, Many happy moments ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Shafeeq -   Tour Guide: Riko

My family and I had 2 full days in Tokyo, we booked the 2nd day with Riko, proposing a long list of places to see in this short time, the response from Riko was very quick and her suggestions / planning for the trip very apt. Still, I was very skeptical, considering we were to cover all these spots with a child. We were extremely happy end of this trip, for the immaculate planning, using all the d...
read more

“ Saw a lot in a short time ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Colin -   Tour Guide: Junko

My husband and I had a long layover in Tokyo, and Junko was a great guide through the city both efficiently and knowledgabilty. She customized our itinerary to what we wanted to see and what we had time for. Definitely recomend!
read more

“ Tokyo 1 Full Day ”

Excellent
2 days ago Traveler: Richard -   Tour Guide: Riko

We had 4 adults and 6 children a large group to manage. Riko managed to get us to all the sites we wanted to see, the Fish Markets were a highlight. Riko's knowledge and explanation of Japanese culture and traditions was excellent. We had a wonderful time. Thanks Riko!!!
read more

“ Best Tourist Guide ever ”

Excellent
2 days ago Traveler: Ana -   Tour Guide: Makiko

Makiko was simply amazing. Very knowlageble, kind, flexible and approachable. She planned an amazing 1 day itinerary for us and we loved every bit if it. You cannot go wrong with Makiko; We 100% recommend her. We are very grateful to her for her oustanding services.
read more

“ Amazing experience ”

Excellent
2 days ago Traveler: Francesco -   Tour Guide: MOTOYUKI

Mr. Motoyuki is a very friendly person and a reliable guide. The tour was amazing and full of wonderful places that we have seen thank to the disponibility of Moto. I really suggest this experience.
read more

“ Highly recommend touring Tokyo with Yukiko ”

Excellent
2 days ago Traveler: Robert -   Tour Guide: YUKIKO

We had a perfect and fun day with Yukiko. We were on the beginning of a two week trip to Japan and Thailand. Working with Yukiko to plan our tour was very easy. We conversed over email for around 2 months to custom tailor our tour. We only had 1 day to experience the best of Tokyo so Yukiko and I worked on a 5 destination trip plus lunch. Each stop on our tour was great. We started at the Out...
read more

Related cities

Plan your trip to Japan

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