Last Call: Tohoku Summer Festivals

Six prefectures, six festivals, just over one week

By Justin Velgus    - 2 min read

The heat of summer is approaching but there is some fun under the sun if you happen to travel north. Each year around the first week of August, the six prefectures of the Tohoku region each hold their own unique multi-day celebration. Trying to see all of them can be a rewarding challenge, while not attending any is probably a huge disappointment.

1. Waraji Matsuri

July 31 – August 1
Held in Fukushima City, Fukushima: locals heave an enormous sandal around the streets accompanied by song and dance.

Waraji Festival

Waraji Festival

Early Aug

Named after the traditional 'waraij' straw sandals, Fukushima's annual festival to mark the summer kicks off in early..

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2. Sansa Odori Matsuri

August 1-4
Held in Morioka, Iwate: world's largest parade of taiko drummers march through the streets

Morioka Sansa Odori

Morioka Sansa Odori

Aug 1st - 4th 2017

The largest drum parade in Japan

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3. Nebuta Matsuri

August 2-7
Held in Aomori City, Aomori (with additional variants of Nebuta held Hirosaki and Goshogowara): elaborate handmade parade floats pulled to a rhythm of dancing, jumping, and chanting. Very high energy, especially after dark.

Nebuta Aomori Festival

Nebuta Aomori Festival

Aug 27th - Aug 28th

Nebuta festival is the biggest Tanabata festival that makes up the three great festivals of Tohoku Region.

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4. Kanto Matsuri

August 3-6
Held in Akita City, Akita: local super athletes, with a handful of youths, balance mind-numbingly high bamboo poles carrying paper lanterns through the city streets.

Akita Kanto Festival  [Cancelled]

Akita Kanto Festival [Cancelled]

Early Aug

The Kanto Matsuri is also known as the pole lantern festival. It is a Tanabata related celebration in Akita City held annually from..

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5. Hanagasa Matsuri

August 5-7
Held in Yamagata City, Yamagata: tracing its origins from the farmers of yesteryear, dancers perform a special dance involving spinning their large straw hats.

Hanagasa Matsuri

Hanagasa Matsuri

Early Aug

Hanagasa Matsuri is a dance festival which originiated in Obanazawa but is now celebrated across Yamagata every summer.

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6. Tanabata Matsuri

August 6-8
Held in Sendai, Miyagi: a quieter festival impressing crowds with its countless artistic streamer decorations hanging throughout the many shopping arcades. On the night of August 5th, there are fireworks along the Hirose River.

Sendai Tanabata

Sendai Tanabata

Early Aug

Sendai Tanabata Festival held August 6th-8th always delights visitors. The largest Tanabata event in Japan continues to grow in..

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Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for JapanTravel.com since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin’s over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background of studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and promoting sake overseas for the government of Fukushima. Justin now does tourism promotion in Sendai, the gyutan capital of the world.

Join the discussion

Hiroko Maruya 6 years ago
Traveling around Tohoku area this season is exciting. We can see all these festivals in a week. I didn't see it. How wonderful!
In Tanabata Matsuri, visitors can write a wish on an oblong card and hanging it on a streamer. It's delightful!
Mandy Bartok 6 years ago
Finally got up north this year to see Nebuta in Aomori, Neputa in Hirosaki and Kanto Matsuri in Akita. So worth it!