July is a month packed with peak summer fun in Japan! Many of the nation’s most popular festivals take place in July, and well as a number of other fireworks festivals, dance celebrations, Tanabata decorations, and much more. Here are 10 fun things to do in Japan in July 2019!
1. Gion Matsuri (祇園祭り)
Held every year for the entire month of July, the famous Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is counted as one of three greatest festivals in Japan. This traditional festival began in 869 as a religious ceremony to appease the gods during an epidemic. Gion Matsuri is centered around the Yasaka Shrine, the famous shrine in the Gion area. The festival actually takes place from July 1-31st, but the main ceremonies take place on July 17th (Sakimatsuri) and July 24th (Atomatsuri), marked with a grand procession of floats.
WHERE: Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
WHEN: July 1-31, 2019
2. Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival (博多祇園山笠)
Kushida Shrine’s immensely popular summer festival is famous for its magnificent Yamakasa floats. It is held every year during the first half of July and features an incredible race on the morning of July 15. The highlight of this event is the procession of people carrying the Yamakasa and running them through the town. Almost one million spectators gather to watch this classic annual festival, which is believed to be over 770 years old and was designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan in 1979.
WHERE: Kushida Shrine, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture
WHEN: July 1-15, 2019
3. Shōnan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival (湘南ひらつか七夕まつり)
This massive popular summer festival is held every year for 3 days, starting on the first Friday in July. This event was first launched as a postwar commercial promotional effort, and is characterized by the luxurious expanse of Tanabata decorations, which is said to be Japan’s best Tanabata celebration that’s supported by active commercial power. Approximately 500 gorgeous decorations fill the streets in the city center, and the festival attracts over 3 million visitors every year.
WHERE: Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture
WHEN: July 5-7, 2019
4. Abare (Rampage) Festival (あばれ祭り)
This lively festival is held every year on the first Friday and Saturday of July. At the festival of Ushitsu Yasaka Shrine, about 40 large Kiriko lanterns are lit by a large torch on the first day. On the second day, portable mikoshi shrines will also appear in addition to Kiriko lanterns. The mikoshi shrines are destroyed by being thrown into the ocean or river, fire, or beaten on the ground. It is by far is one of the most brave, lively, and proud Kiriko festivals in Noto.
WHERE: Ushitsu Yakasa Shrine, Ishikawa Prefecture
WHEN: July 5-6, 2019
5. Gujō Dance Festival (郡上おどり)
The Gujo Odori (Dance Festival) is typically held over thirty-one festive nights, from mid-July until the first weekend in September. Gujo Dance Festival is said to have continued singing and dancing in the Gujo Hachiman castle town for 400 years. The biggest attraction is the street dancing in which everyone participates, rather than just watch. Local people and tourists enjoy the traditional street dancing together.
WHERE: Gujō Hachiman Castle Town Area, Gujo City, Gifu Prefecture
WHEN: July 14 – Sept 8, 2019
6. Kuki Chōchin Festival “Tennō-sama” (久喜の提灯祭り・天王様)
In the daytime, mythological dolls are decorated and placed atop of large Dashi (floats) and paraded around the city. At night, the dolls are removed and replaced by about 500 lanterns that cover all four sides of the Dashi instead. The massive red-lit floats are a true sight to behold! This festival is held on the 12th and 18th of July every year.
WHERE: Around Kuki Station, Kuki City, Saitama Prefecture
WHEN: July 12 & 18
7. Tenjin Matsuri (天神祭)
This is one of Japan’s three greatest festivals, held every year at Osaka Tenmangū Shrine, which is located in the heart of Osaka City. It originated back in the 10th century, in the year 951, as a celebration dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, the Japanese deity of scholarship and learning. The two-day festival features a lively procession through the city, with musical performances and dancers. The main event of the festival takes place on the second day, with a procession of boats on the river and massive fireworks as the grand finale.
WHERE: Osaka Tenmangū Shrine, Osaka Prefecture
WHEN: July 24-25, 2019
8. Tobata Gion Oyamakasa (戸畑祇園大山笠)
The Tobata Gion Oyamagasa Festival, which has been designated as an Intangible Cultural Property, has a history of 200 years, and is known as one of Fukuoka Prefecture’s three major summer festivals. It is held on the fourth Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in July. The yamakasa floats differ during the day and night. During the day, they feature red and white banners and embroidered decorations. At night, huge floats carrying 12 levels of lanterns are pulled around the city.
WHERE: Kitakyushu Tobata City Ward Office, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture
WHEN: July 26 – 28, 2019
9. Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival (隅田川花火大会)
Held every year on the last Saturday in July, this is Tokyo’s biggest summer fireworks festival. It dates all the way back to 1733 of the Edo period, and continues to draw large crowds to this day, as close to 950,000 people come to watch the display every year. A total of 20,000 fireworks are launched from two locations on Sumidagawa (Sumida River). Location 1 features fireworks from the top pyrotechnic companies in Japan. And, since the introduction of the second location in 2012, the famous Tokyo Sky Tree can be viewed among the fireworks, making the festival become even more popular.
WHERE: Sumida River, Tokyo Prefecture
WHEN: July 27, 2019
10. Daijyayama Festival (大蛇山まつり)
This summer festival in Omuta-city is very popular, as over 300,000 visitors every single year. People ride atop of dashi floats that are decorated with Daija (big snake) ornaments. The dashi floats are pulled around the city along with the ohayashi music of Japanese drums and bells, etc. Finally, the citizens’ dance attracts over 10,000 participants.
WHERE: Taishomachi Street, Omuta City, Fukuoka Prefecture
WHEN: July 27 – 28, 2019