Suddenly the hot and humid summer of Japan has started. But this does not have to mean that there is only suffering! I would like to introduce to you all of the exciting summer events held all over Japan to help us enjoy this season!
* Aomori Nebuta Festival
All of the float carriers yell "Rasse-ra! Rasse-ra!", the sound associated with one of the largest festivals of the Tohoku region. Nebuta means "sleepiness" in the Aomori dialect. The story behind this festival is that the farmers of this region wanted to fight off sleepiness during the hard working months of spring, summer, and autumn before the severe winters of northern Japan set in.
Autumn (August - September) was the most important season for rice farmers to crop the harvest but at the same time, they were exhausted from the hard work of planting in the spring. Many farmers had to fight with exhaustion and sleepiness, therefore, they decided to have this festival to hope for a bountiful harvest and for everyone's good health and happiness, basically to keep up their spirits.
The festival centers around a float which is carried through the city. The float over the years has taken on a scary look but this is more for attracting tourists in modern years. At the early history of the festival, the floats had happier-faced depictions.
*Akita Kanto Festival 秋田竿燈（かんとう）祭
The festival's highlight is a parade of single persons (230 of them) walking with long bamboo poles (15 meters high!) strung with many lanterns. To hold up these poles which are balanced on foreheads and lower backs is not an easy feat. The bamboo poles with lanterns represent an ear of rice and the festival is to wish for a good harvest. You can probably guess that Japanese are very serious about their rice harvest!
Since the Nara period, there has been a long tradition of enjoying fireflies in the summer. In the Tale of Genji, there are many scenes there the characters are appreciating fireflies in the summer evenings. Fireflies disappeared when the rivers became too polluted but in recent decades with the improvement of the water quality, we can enjoy fireflies in many areas of Japan.
Go to Sankei-en Garden in Yokohama to enjoy fireflies, weather permitting.
I may be biased but I think Japanese fire works are some of the highest quality in the world. In these firework festivals, there will be a huge crowd. So, if you are going to any of these listed below, please go early to save a good spot. If you wish to avoid crowds, please make sure you don't go to the same direction as the trains will be packed!!
*20/July: Kamakura Fireworks
19:20 - 20:10
*23/July: Adachi Fireworks
*23/July: Katsushika Fireworks
*30/July: Sumida River Fireworks (near Asakusa area)
*2 & 3/Aug: Nagaoka Fireworks (Niigata pref)
2 days total 20,000
*6/Aug: Edogawa Fireworks
*15/Aug: Suwako Fireworks Festival (Nagano-pref)
*21/Aug Cho-fu Fireworks (8,000 fireworks)
If fireworks are not enough and you need more sweat and beat...
*22 - 24/July: Fuji Rock Festival (Niigata)
*20 -21/Aug: Summer Sonic Tokyo
There are many big swimming pools but on school vacation days, they may be quite crowded. If you like to swim regularly, you should check with your ward-office as many of the schools' swimming pools are also open for the community. (I should mention here that many pools restrict entry of people with tattoos which are/were associated with people affiliated with crime syndicates.)
Oota-ku has public swimming pool (outside: only July until the beginning of Sept. and the rest of the year, you can swim in the indoor heated swimming pool.)
Higashi choufu ko-en (park)
480yen for 2 hours.
--More for fun/water parks--
*Showa Park (JR Chuo-line Tachikawa station)
*Yomiuri Land (Odakyu Line)
*Tokyo Summer Land
And more suggestions:
**On a more subdued note, how about a Zen experience at Kirigaya Temple (in Meguro-ku)?
"Za-zen" sessions, JPY300 from 18:00 - 19:00 on the 3rd Saturday every month.
All year round:
**Monzen naka cho Festival (Tokyo Metro To-zai line)
(Every 1st, 15th and 28th of every month, there are festivals in Monzen Nakacho.)
**Boat trip from Nihombashi
**Nagatoro (saitama pref)
World Heritage sites in Japan
Yes, summer heat and humidity is pretty tough in Japan but there are many activities to keep us busy! I hope this will give you some suggestions. Enjoy!