Late-Summer Kansai Festivals with Local Flavor

Source: Gaijin Pot
Late-Summer Kansai Festivals with Local Flavor

Summer festivals are one of those few times when the imagined vision of what I believed Japan to be like before I lived here converge with reality.

For about eight weeks, from mid-July to early September, the whole country takes on a festive mood, as people in brightly colored yukata (light cotton summer kimono) fill the streets to dance, drink and soak up the atmosphere as outdoor food grills, beer and sake chills, fireworks burst in the sky and performers fill the streets.

I can’t help but be reminded of that beautiful O-bon (the Japanese Festival of the Dead) dance sequence at the end of The Karate Kid Part II, even if this is probably the only accurate depiction of Japan in that movie.

But, wait, aren’t all the big festivals over already?

Well, for the typical tourist, the likes of the Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka and Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri may be the headline acts. However, if you want to get off the beaten track and find those precious local festivals that aren’t in the guidebooks, then now is the perfect time to visit Kansai. Here is a list of seven of the best.

Photo by George Alexander Ishida Newman

All festivals have the staple favorites.

1) Inaba Umbrella Dance

Parasols in Japan are more than just pretty accessories to keep the baking hot summer sun off your back. For some local festivals, they are also an integral part of the routine. One such festival is the Inaba Umbrella Dance, where groups of dancers assemble with colorful, ornate umbrellas, each covered in more than 100 bells that make gentle yet assertive sounds as they twirl and sway through the motions of the dance. The festival is elegant, colorful and mesmerizing.

  • Where: Yokomakura, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture
  • When: Aug. 14

2) Hashira …continue reading