Kyoto Station [Gozan no Okuribi]
The Japanese people have worshiped natural phenomena as gods since ancient times, and have prayed to these nature gods for prosperity, thanked them for good harvests and held festivals in their honor to prevent disasters. Although their form, scale and content may have changed down the years, these festivals are still very much alive today. In particular, Bon festival dances, parades, fireworks festivals, fairs, floats and music processions liven up the summer all over Japan.
Toyohashi Stations [Tezutsu hand-held fireworks]
Mikawa-Anjo Station [Anjo Tanabata Matsuri]
If it's a festival you want, make it a summer one!
- The word "matsuri" (festival) is a noun form of the verb "matsuru" (worship), and the original meaning was the act of worshiping a god or a ceremony of worship. In a typical ceremony, people make offerings of objects and actions to divine spirits. If the scale of a ceremony becomes so large that it involves the whole region, it will be called a matsuri.
- Japan has four distinctive seasons, and matsuris reflect the characteristics of each. Matsuris have been held to pray for good harvests in spring, to give thanks for the rice harvest in autumn, and to thank the gods for the closing year and pray for good fortune for the next one in winter. What about summer, then? Well, in rural areas matsuris were held in summer to ease the fatigue of long months of hard work in the fields and pray for good health and a good harvest. In towns and cities on the other hand, summer matsuris were mainly associated with Obon, a custom of honoring the spirits of the dead. Events with this connection include "Tama Matsuri", in which people offer comfort to the souls of their ancestors, and "Nagoshi no Harae", in which people pray to ward off plague.
- In fact, in the world of haiku (Japanese poems), the word "matsuri" usually means "summer matsuri". People use the specific terms "haru matsuri" and "aki matsuri" to indicate a festival in spring and autumn respectively, and there is no seasonal word with the meaning "winter festival". It is assumed that "matsuri" came to mean "summer festival" because the Aoi Matsuri, a grand festival that has been held in summer at Kamo Shrine in Kyoto since the Heian period (about 1,200 years ago), used to be a national event and came to be called just "Matsuri". By association, "matsuri" became a seasonal word for evoking the summer.
- Today, matsuris provide an opportunity for children to experience the unity of their local community during the long summer holidays. They also play an important role for adults, as people who have left their home towns traditionally return during the period of Obon, and local people living both near and far can come together again at the matsuris held around this time.
- Summer matsuris are larger in scale and richer in content than those which take place in other seasons. They are full of local color and originality. Seeing a summer festival is lots of fun, and you will enjoy it all the more if you actually join in. Give yourself a special summer treat, and experience local energy and passion with your whole being.
Kyoto Station [Gion Matsuri]
Shizuoka Station [Shimizu Minato Matsuri]
Shin-Osaka Station [Osaka Tenmangu Shrine Tenjin Matsuri]
Nagoya Station [Owari Tsushima Tenno Matsuri]
updated on Jun 10, 2015
Tokaido Shinkansen Stations