Japanese Summer Festivals and Fireworks in Nagano

July 21st, 2017 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

An archer in the Nyakuichi Oji Festival in Omachi City.

The vibrant, lively atmosphere of summer festivals is one of the most memorable parts of Japan. The streets are filled with the bright colors of yatai stalls, yukata robes, and paper lanterns, and the sky lights up with brilliant fireworks. Musicians play traditional flute and drum songs as performers entertain festival-goers with dances and theater.

As summer approaches its peak, Nagano gears up for exciting festivals of its own. Enjoy traditional Japanese summer festivals along with events that are unique to Nagano.

1. Japan Alps Art Festival (Omachi City)

“Shinano Omachi Tangible Landscape” by the creative team “Me.”


Utilizing traditional kominka houses and the rich nature at the base of the Japan Alps, Omachi City is hosting the first Japan Alps Art Festival with over 30 artists from around the world. Until July 30th, you can see beautiful works of art that explore the relationship between humans and nature.

“Windy” by Kuei-Chih Lee

Tickets can be purchased for 2,500 Yen and include one admission to every work as well as discounts on certain activities and restaurants. The event runs from June 4th to July 30th, 2017. You can learn more about the festival on the event’s official multilingual website, or see firsthand photographs from one of our bloggers here.


2. Iida Puppet Festival (Iida City)

Japanese and international puppet troops perform over the course of 6 days during the Iida Puppet Festival.


All of Iida City becomes host and stage of the biggest puppet festival in Japan. Bringing together puppet theater troupes from across Japan, Asia, and as far away as Europe, the fair features all forms and styles of puppetry from traditional ‘bunraku’ hand and shadow puppets to newer forms of object theater, pantomime, and ventriloquism. Audiences of all ages are fascinated, entertained, and enchanted with the puppet shows hosted at more than 100 venues throughout the city. In addition, there are a parade, workshops, and a midnight theater.

This year’s puppet festival will be held between Tuesday, August 1st and Sunday, August 6th. See our event page or their english website for more details.


3. Nagano’s Dancing Festivals (Various Locations)

A snapshot of the dance performed at Nagano’s Binzuru festival.


Around August, major cities throughout Nagano celebrate summer dance festivals. Locals join large groups of classmates, coworkers or friends, each with their own unique and colorful happi coats, and dance through the streets late into the evening. The simple melodies are contagious and friendly groups often invite you to dance along. Enjoy the lively atmosphere, snack on fried festival foods, and dance away the summer heat.

Ueda City celebrates its Wasshoi festival on Saturday, July 29th. Nagano (Binzuru), Matsumoto (Bonbon) and Iida cities (Ringon) celebrate their festivals on the same day, Saturday, August 5th.


4. Omachi Nyakuichi-Oji Festival (Omachi City)

A young boy trying traditional “yabusame” archery from horseback.


Omachi City’s Nyakuichi-Oji Shrine not only has a history of over 700 years, but its main building and pagoda are designated national important cultural properties. The shrine’s annual festival features a “yabusame” horseback archery competition. One of the top 3 such competitions in the country, Nyakuichi-Oji’s is the only one by young boys. The boys dressed in period costumes also perform a procession through the town as part of this colorful festival.

This year it will be held on July 22nd to 23rd. See more information on our event page.


5. Sakaki Festival (Mochizuki-juku in Saku City)

A long exposure photograph of flaming torchs being thrown into the river during the Sakaki Festival.


With burning pine torches in their hands, local youth run down from the mountain to the Kakuma riverbed, and together throw their torches into the river in an exciting spectacle. This festival is held on August 15th every year in Mochizuki-juku, a former post town of the Nakasendo. Through the cleansing fire, locals pray for their health and a bountiful harvest. It is said that a long time ago, the warring states general Takeda Shingen mistook the festival’s torchs for an ambush and immediately retreated with his troops.

The festival is held every year on August 15th. See more information on our events page.


6. Suwa Fireworks Festival (Suwa City)

A shot from the 2013 Suwa Experimental Fireworks festival.


Suwa’s fireworks display, held in mid-August every year, is hailed as one of the largest displays in all of Japan. Over 40,000 devices are exploded over the lake, with the sound reverberating off the surrounding mountains. The grand finale is a 2-kilometer long “niagara” of cascading sparkles. In early September, a second fireworks display is held featuring new experimental types. Suwa’s fireworks display was started shortly after World War II in the hopes of lightening people’s spirits in the aftermath of the war.

The Suwa Fireworks Festival is held every year on August 15th. The Suwa Experimental Fireworks festival is held on September 2nd. See more information on our events page.


7. Yuzawa Shrine Lantern Festival (Nozawa Onsen Village)

The performer dressed as Sarutohito no Mikoto dances while twirling a large bundle of burning hay.


During Yuzawa Shrine’s religious Lantern Festival, a parade of large poles weighted with plentiful lanterns extends through the streets of Nozawa Onsen. The Shinto deity Sarutohiko-no-Mikoto performs the purifying ritual called “Shimekiri,” where he rhythmically swings a large bundle of fire before cutting a ceremonial rope with a katana. Throughout town you can see performances of the Sarutahiko-no-Mikoto dance, the dance of the 36 great poets, and the dance of the lion. Also, from 19:30 yatai stalls fill the streets and fireworks light the sky. The next day an omikoshi float makes its rounds through the whole town.

This year, the festival will be held on September 8th and 9th.


Additional Information

Summer festivals are one of Japan’s most memorable experiences. Wear your own yukata, enjoy delicious street food and marvel at the sight of Japanese fireworks. People of all ages are out and about so you can meet locals and enjoy an authentic slice of life in Japan. If you’re interested in learning more about Nagano’s summer festivals and activities, take a look at some of the other resources below!

Links

5 Great Winter Festivals in Nagano

December 9th, 2016 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

Enjoy fire festivals, illuminations and more in this winter wonderland.

Winter is here. Snow is falling steadily up in the mountains and people around Nagano are bringing out their kotatsu tables, kerosene heaters and nabe pots. Once again, it’s that time of year for skiing, hot springs and great winter festivals. Why stay inside when you could warm up in front of a magnificent fire festival or in the company of Japan’s many spirits?

Make some wonderful memories this winter with some of the festivals below!
Read the rest of this entry »

Impressions of the Onbashira Festival

July 13th, 2016 by
Category: Culture Art, Events, Report

Locals watch as the first pillar is lifted into place at the Harumiya shrine.

The Onbashira festival is finally at an end. After months of preparation and twelve long days of labor, the sixteen onbashira pillars have reached their resting places at the corners of the four shrines of Suwa Taisha.

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Nagano’s Top Cherry Blossom Spots

March 4th, 2016 by
Category: Events, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

(This was originally posted in 2016, but dates and timetables have been updated for the 2017 season.)

Cherry blossoms and snow make a beautiful pair.

Spring is on its way and that means it’s time to break out those blue tarps, make some rice balls and drink plenty of local beer and sake. It’s cherry blossom viewing time! There are a lot of beautiful spots to enjoy them here in Nagano prefecture, where the mountains add a beautiful touch of white to the spring scenery. Who knew you could see sakura and snow at the same time?

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Winter 2016 Illuminations and Festivals

January 29th, 2016 by
Category: Culture Art, Events, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Areas of Nagano prefecture are getting ready for a series of festivals in February, and in that spirit I thought I would put together a list of current and upcoming events for the Winter season. Tear yourself away from the ski resorts for a night and visit some of Nagano’s other scenic spots!

Read the rest of this entry »

Zenkoji Hana Kairo Flower Festival 善光寺花回廊

April 25th, 2014 by
Category: Culture Art, Events, Experience, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

Come out to Nagano City and see the flower canvases and tapestry gardens! These works of art are created using flower petals. Various ‘flowers’ are waiting to meet you!

Date: May 3rd (Sat)-May 5th (Sun) 2014

Place: Nagano-City, Chuo-dori (Shinden-cho, from Toigo-machi to Nishigo-machi, Higashigo-machi to Daimon-machi), Gondo Arcade and Gondo Plaza, Tokyu Dept Store

20th Roukaku Plum Garden Flower Festival

April 1st, 2014 by
Category: Events, Experience, Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Dates: April 5th (Sat)-12th, 2014 (festival events on 4/5 and 4/6)

Place: Roukaku Bai-en, Shinshu-Shinmachi, Nagano-City

長野市信州新町「ろうかく梅園」

In early April spring returns to Nagano as the snow finally melts away. Come see nearly 600 plum trees in blossom during the festival and fragrance fills the air as people gather to enjoy the relaxing Shinshu spring.

 

30th Hijiri-Sanzengoku Festival 大岡 第30回ひじり三千石まつり

July 17th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Experience, Outdoor Activities

Ever wanted to catch a fish by hand? Come out to Oooka during O-bon and try  catching iwana (mountain trout) by hand, watch a taiko performance and support the local economy by purchasing locally made specialty products. This picturesque hamlet is a scenic drive from Nagano City and provides great views of the Northern Alps on a clear day. Escape the humidity in the city and head out to the mountains!

Date: August 14, 2013 (Wednesday) 9:30am until 2pm (cancelled only if there is heavy rain)

Place: Nagano city, Oooka Hijiri-shinsui Kouen (長野市大岡ひじり親水公園)

Access:

By Taxi: 30 minute taxi from Shinonoi Station

By Car: 20km (30min) drive from Omi I.C. (麻績)

an Aftermath of Ombe-Gods-Festival

January 13th, 2013 by
Category: Information
scattered rubbish?

It’s a beautiful morning on the 13th January.

But what are these?  Scattered rubbish in our sun streamed ‘engawa’, the in-house veranda?

No, the pieces of paper are from last night’s visit by the Ombe Gods.

Near the midnight last night, the paper made Ombe Gods, ‘Ombe’ being an ancient word for a piece of paper or a card, visited my house along with all the other households in our region.

It is a New year’s greetings from our regional God.

 

They are a pair of a big Onbe for adults & a small Ombe for children which are carried by men and boys who ran through the chilly and frozen night visiting every household from door to door.

When the shouting of the boys and the sound of the drum came nearer, I settled myself ready and sat at the veranda waiting for those messengers of Gods’ to come.

Then came running a local young man with big Ombe God, greeting me,”Omedeto!”, which means celebrations, followed by a 6th grader boy with smaller Ombe god shouting the same thing, followed by several smaller boy messengers throwing me the pieces of paper dropped off from the Gods.

Last night, for the first time ever, one of the smallest boys put the paper dutifully ON my lap, for which I somehow felt very warm!

scattered everywhere

This Ombe festival is dutifully succeeded by elementary school boys in my region on every 12th January.

After carried all through the region, the Gods are settled at a small shrine till the 14th, when they are to put up on to a high pole, eventually to be removed on the 8th February.

finally settled & enshrined

finally settled & enshrined

 

Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada’s Summer Festivals 2012

June 15th, 2012 by
Category: Culture Art, Events, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada’s 2 biggest events are coming up: the Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival and the Chikuma River Fireworks. The 2012 Dates for the two are as follows.  (Note:  Access is via Togura Station on the Shinano Railway line.)

Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival 2012: July 14-15
Saturday is more for us locals, with neighborhood parades and official ceremonies including the Geta Offering run by us members of the ryokan junior association.
Sunday is more for tourists, with a massive 50-person shi-shi lion and omikoshi shrines carried by groups of sweaty guys and gals, with the backdrop of a taiko drum performance and a fireworks display launched from the mountain behind town. You will never see so much intense energy in one spot anywhere else in Japan.

That's me with one of the "O-Mikoshi" parade shrines at last year's festival

Chikuma River Fireworks Display 2012: August 7th.
Northern Nagano’s largest fireworks show take place above the picturesque Chikuma River. Get up close for an awe-inspiring view as the brilliant flashes reflect off the surface of the river and the ‘boom’ of the explosions bounce off the surrounding mountains.

Fireworks over the Chikuma River