Summer Festival in Japan: What to Eat and What to See

Written by Stephanie Lin | 5 min read | Culture

Japanese Festival

Sightseeing, street food, fireworks, festivals—the list goes on and on for fun summer activities in Japan! Annual vacations make it easier to travel in the summer, and it’s also the perfect time to immerse yourself in Japanese culture through Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festivals).

Matsuri, or festivals, are typically popular spots for locals and tourists all year round; however, the hustle and bustle of street food, carnival games, and fireworks during Natsu Matsuri make it the ultimate summer celebration.

In the past, Matsuri were held as rituals to thank deities in nature, pray for plentiful harvests and peaceful living, serve as memorial services, and ward off evil spirits and natural disasters. Now, Matsuri has evolved to become a celebration of Japanese culture and each region’s various charms. Natsu Matsuri, for example, celebrates the joy of life in summer through games, fireworks, and food.

child in kimono trying to scoop goldfish

Games

Games are an essential part of the festival experience. From goldfish scooping and yoyo-fishing to ring-tossing, the number of games you can find at Natsu Matsuri are endless!

fireworks during Japanese Summer Festival

Fireworks

What better way to conclude a lovely summer night than with fireworks? Hanabi, or fireworks, is the quintessential Natsu Matsuri activity. The colorful, extravagant Hanabi show can last around 2 hours and is the perfect accompaniment to a night of good company and food. 

Street Food Stand

Food

Some might say the best way to learn about another culture is through food, and Natsu Matsuri is the ultimate place to try lots of freshly cooked Japanese street food.

photo of Yakisoba

Yakisoba

Sweet and savory, this Japanese stir-fry noodle is usually made with wheat noodles, thinly sliced meat, and vegetables. 

Shaved ice with syrup and condensed milk

Kakigori

Kakigori, or Japanese shaved ice, is the perfect way to cool down at Matsuri. The ice is finely shaven and topped with a sweet, colorful syrup. 

okonomiyaki, a japanese savory pancake

Okonomiyaki

This savory Japanese-style pancake is a crowd favorite. Its typically made with a flour base, shredded cabbage, choice of protein and topped with mayonnaise, Japanese Worcestershire sauce, and bonito flakes. 

takoyaki, japanese octopus balls being made

Takoyaki

Takoyaki, or Japanese octopus ball, is a savory batter filled with octopus, green onion, and ginger topped with Takoyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, seaweed, and bonito flakes (thinly sliced, dried and smoked tuna). Its served piping hot, so when the bonito flakes are sprinkled on top, the bonito flakes curl and sway as if it’s dancing.

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