The Niigata Festival is one of the biggest summer festivals in one of the smaller provincial cities of Japan, making it doubly impactful for the small footprint, with more than 500,000 people attending each year. It combines community spirit and a sense of fun, without all the difficulties of hosting it in a large metropolis, such as 20 people deep crowds, or exorbitant hotel prices. Nevertheless, it is best to pre-book hotel accommodation if you are coming from out of town.
The highlight of the festival is the fireworks in the evening over the Shinano River to the backdrop of illuminated boats. The fireworks last for over an hour, making it a spectacular backdrop for a balmy picnic or an al fresco dinner with family or friends. On Friday night, there is one of Japan’s largest parades, with 15,000 folk dancers swinging to the same beat in summer kimonos. During the day there are Taiko or Japanese drumming troupes, portable shrines and an immense number of summer stalls, with games and treats for participants of all ages.