It’s that time of year when the amazing amount of summer festivals take place across the whole of Japan. Tokyo, being the capital, hosts a huge amount of these festivals throughout the summer months making it very easy for you to find one nearby.
Starting in 2003, this festival is by far the biggest held in Tokyo to celebrate the Bon Odori dance. It’s held at the fountain due to its being a circle dance, where all participants dance in unison around the wonderfully lit up fountain. It’s expected that around 40,000 people will attend this year, showing just how popular it is.
The entry is free and you only have a pay ¥300 for a Bon Odori towel and a raffle ticket, a great souvenir to keep for your experience.
Walking towards Hibiya Park, you can hear the sound of excitement and see the warm glow of lights through the trees. The whole area is lit with endless trails of the Japanese 'chochin' lanterns. Stalls line the paths selling pretty much any Japanese food you could want for the evening, as well as plenty of beer. I should probably mention the free tasters as well!
Going to any summer festival, you’re going to see quite a few people dressed in a Yukata, a casual summer kimono. There was an extremely enthusiastic band playing along with the Bon Odori songs being sung. They go through quite a few different songs, such as Tokyo Ondo, Ginzakankan Musume, and Tankobushi. The main reason everyone is here though, is to celebrate what most of these songs are based off, the Marunouchi Ondo. Yaso Saito and Shinpei Nakayama composed this back in 1932.
Tourists are more than welcome, and it seems that the locals enjoy seeing you join in and at least try to dance along. If in doubt, just watch and observe the experts for 10 minutes or so, and you’ll soon get the gist and really want to jump in.
One little tip, make sure you can understand Japanese numbers. This becomes quite handy when they read out the raffle. I was clueless as to whether I actually won, but a few young local guys saw my face, understood, and very kindly tried to help me!
I highly recommend researching any festivals happening around your visit. It’ll give you the chance to experience the ultimate traditional Japanese atmosphere.