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Japan's Seasons In Photos: August - A Time Of Festivals

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August is the time of summer festivals in Japan. Obon and Tanabata are just two of the traditions observed in the summer. These photos will convey the festive atmosphere of this season in Japan.

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August - Summer Celebrations

Bon Festival

August coincides with mid-summer in Japan, which makes it the hottest month of the year. It's a time when people surround themselves with objects that remind them of coolness - such as fans, wind chimes, breezy clothing and summer kimonos (yukata), dishes that are served cool, water or objects in cool blue hues that remind one of water and ice.

August is also the time of summer festivals. In many regions of Japan, the locals observe Obon, a traditional celebration dedicated to the ancestors. It is customary to return to one's hometown for a few days in August for Obon, to spend a little time with one's family, remembering the departed ones.

The Spirit of Obon

Minato Mirai Bon Odori

Obon is a good example of a tradition that connects the individual and the family to the community. In addition to rituals that are performed privately within the family, local festivals are being held around mid-August in the cities and towns calling the people to come out and celebrate together.

Bon Odori

Bon-odori festivals consist of traditional taiko drum music and dances. These dances were originally offerings to the souls of the departed ones. It is believed that their souls come back for Obon to be temporarily reunited with their families.

The Bon-odori dances consist of a fixed set of movements. Anyone is welcome to join. The participants dance in circles around the platform where the musicians play their instruments.

Bon Festival

The Bon festivals are the ideal occasion to wear yukata, the light summer kimono. The most popular yukata patterns are reminiscent of summer motifs such as goldfish, water streams, fireworks, or summer flowers. How about putting on a yukata and join the dances?

The photos above have been taken at the annual Minato Mirai Bon-odori Festival. To find out more about this festival, refer to the article below.

Summer Festivals around the City

Asagaya Tanabata Festival

Another popular summer festival is Tanabata, a tradition held either on July 7 or on August 7, depending on the region. In the past, the lunar calendar was used in Japan. "The seventh day of the seventh month" coincides with the time around August 7 nowadays, that is why some of the regions in Japan, such as Tohoku, celebrate Tanabata in August.

Tanabata originated in the legend of the Weaver and the Herder, two lovers who are allowed to meet just once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month. They are associated with the stars Vega and Altair, that can be seen at the same time on the sky only around the seventh day of the seventh month. This is why Tanabata is also called the Star Festival.

Asagaya Tanabata Festival

One of the famous festivals of this kind in Tokyo is the Asagaya Tanabata Matsuri held during the first week of August in Asagaya Pearl Center, an arcade shopping street. This celebration boasts a history of 65 years, being started by local merchants in 1954 as a measure to attract customers. It is now a local tradition of Asagaya.

The distinctive feature of the Asagaya Tanabata Matsuri is that in addition to the traditional bamboo and paper decorations, various other decorations made out of paper are on display. Popular anime characters or completely original creations standing out in vivid colors - it's a celebration of humor and creativity.

Asagaya Tanabata Festival

It is customary for people to write down their wishes on colored strips of paper and hang them on bamboo branches. You can find such bamboo branches on display at every Tanabata festival, so how about writing a wish?

Asagaya Tanabata Festival

The decorations of a Tanabata Festival are truly impressive and create a lasting memory of summer. Do come to Asagaya if you're in Tokyo at the beginning of August. To learn more about the Asagaya Pearl Center, please read the article below.

Summer Treats - Kakigori Shave Ice


It's essential to make sure you keep yourself hydrated and cool in August when the temperatures soar. If you're walking outside and are looking for a cool treat, search for the sign shown in the photo above.

This sign is displayed by shops that sell kakigori, a shave ice dessert. This traditional dessert consists of thinly shaved ice topped with syrup. It's a lighter and healthier alternative to ice cream and ideal on hot summer days.

Kakigori - Shave Ice

Kakigori ice can come with a simple fruit topping.

Kakigori - Shave Ice

Or it can be a sophisticated dessert with toppings made of chocolate, coffee or matcha green tea. There are plenty of variations and you'll be amazed to see what people can do with just ice.

If you visit Japan in August, we hope you enjoy the festive atmosphere and the flavors of summer to the fullest.

Photos by Monami I
Text by Ramona

Written by

Photographer. I like to capture Japan's seasons on film and digital photos. Sometimes traveling.

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