Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

August 2, 2012

Event Calendar for August

August is hot and humid in Japan, the time expats fly out to cooler climes, but early August is also the month of the great (and wild) summer festivals - the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, the Awa Odori dance festival in Tokushima, and many others. The middle of August is the period of Obon, the Buddhist All-Souls Festival when the ancestors return for a few days to the earth. In every locality Bon dances are held and at the end of Obon the souls are sent off by floating lanterns in rivers and bonfires on hills, such as Daimonji in Kyoto. And, finally, in late August, there is a number of great fire festivals...

July 31 - August 7, Chuzenji, Nikko: Tohaisai (Pilgrim's Festival), Futarasan Jinja
Midnight ascent of Mt. Nantai. Information in Japanese.

August 1 - 7, Hirosaki (Aomori Pref): Neputa Matsuri
Giant lantern floats are paraded through Hirosaki to the sound of drums and hand-gongs. English information.

August 2-7, Aomori: Nebuta Matsuri
Giant lantern floats, carrying images of warriors and fantastic creatures, make their way through the city to the sound of drums and flutes. Frenzied dancing in which everyone can take part. English information.

August 2, Nara
Viewing of the founder's image, of Priest Roben, in the Kaisando, Todaiji. 
Access: Todaji, Nara

August 5-14, Nara: Toka-e
Ten thousands of candles lit up in various venues in central Nara from 19::00-21:45: Kofukuji, Sarusawa Pond, Nara National Museum, Ukimido, Asajigahara, Kasuganomichi etc. See website.

August 6, Kyoto: Nagoshi no Shinji
At Shimogamo Shrine (18:30-). Men in fundoshi jump in the water to grab talismans.

August 5-7, Akita: Kanto Matsuri
Kanto are enormous poles with side beams on which numerous lanterns hang. More than 150 of such heavy contraptions are balanced by young men through Akita City. English information.

August 6-8, Sendai: Tanabata
Main streets and shopping arcades in Sendai are festively decorated for the festival of the meeting of the stars of the Cowherd and Weaver girl. In other locations, Tanabata is usually held in July. English information.

August 7, Nara: Ominugui
Annual ceremonial cleaning of the Great Buddha image by 120 monks and lay people. Early in the morning: 7.00-9:30, temple open 7:30. 
Access: Todaiji, Nara

August 7-10, Kyoto: Rokudo-Mairi and Pottery Fair
"Six States of Existence Pilgrimage" is held in the area of Rokuharamitsuji and Chinkoji. Vendors sell goods from stalls set up in the streets around the temple. In Chinkoji, worshipers visit the temple to ring the bell to call their ancestors back from the other shore for the Bon festival. In the same period, in Gojo-dori, a pottery market is held.

August 8-10 and 16, Kyoto: Manto-e in Rokuharamitsuji
Memorial services are held and wicks are lighted on dishes of oil representing the souls of ancestors being called back (evenings at 20:00). On Aug. 16, in contrast, the path to the other world is lighted back by the same ritual.

August 9-12, Kochi: Yosakoi festival.
Yosakoi teams with naruko clappers dance through the streets. Popular festival imitated by many other cities in Japan.

Mid-August, Kyoto: Rokusai Nembutsu in Mibudera
Lion dances and pantomime for Obon.

August 12-15, Tokushima: Awa Odori
People clad in yukata dance in the streets of Tokushima to the music of shamisen and small gongs. This is Tokushima's version of Bon Odori, the Bon Dance.

Aug. 13-16, Nationwide: Bon Festival
Buddhist festival in honor of the dead, celebrated every year between August 13 and 16 (a month earlier in the old calendar). It is believed that the souls of the dead return to earth during this period and visit their family home. The houses are cleaned for this occasion, and food and drink are set out in front of the family altar. Lanterns are placed everywhere in the evening, specially on the seashore and shores of lakes and rivers to welcome the dead. Dances are performed at local temples and shrines throughout rural Japan, which are referred to as Bon Odori. After the feast is over, the dead are conducted back to the spirit world. Sometimes bonfires are lit on hills, or lanterns are set adrift on rivers or the sea (toro-nagashi).

August 14-15: Mandoro, Nara
Mandoro Ceremony at the Kasuga Shrine. 3,000 lanterns are lighted at 19:00.
Access: Kasuga Taisha, Nara

August 15: Manto Kuyo-e, Todaiji, Nara
2,500 lanterns are lit in front of the Great Buddha Hall and a religious ceremony is held. 19:00-22:00.


August 15: Nara Daimonji Okuribi
Nara Bonfire, best seen from Sarusawa Pond or Tobihino Field. Lasts just 10 min from 20:00.

August 14-16, Kyoto: Manto-e
Thousand of lanterns are lit on the graves in the huge Higashi-Otani Cemetery near Maruyama park (20:00-). The cemetery belongs to Higashi Honganji. Of the same nature is the Sennichi-mairi observance in Kiyomizudera.

August 15, Hanase (Kyoto Pref.): Hanase Fire Festival
In a dark field hundreds of small torches are lighted around a huge, central one called matsuage, which is finally set afire.

August 16, Kyoto: Daimonji
Between 20:00 and 20:20 five fires are started on hills around the city: two in the shape of the character for Dai, Great (the best Dai character is on the hill above Ginkakuji); one in the shape of the boat (reminder of the voyage to China of Priest Ennin); a torii gate (symbolizing the Atago Shrine) and the characters for Myoho or Wonderful Law, pointing at Nichiren. It is difficult to see them all due to the many high buildings in Kyoto nowadays. Best places are in the northern part of Kyoto - for the Dai I advise the banks of the Kamo River. Later there are Bon dances at several locations in the town.

Aug. 23-24, Kyoto: Jizo Bon
Festival held in several Kyoto neighborhoods for Jizo, the guardian of children.

Aug. 23-24, Nara: Jizo-e Manto Kuyo at Gangoji
English information
Users of this list should always recheck events with local tourist offices, websites etc, as this information is very much prone to change!