Summer in Japan can be incredibly humid and hot, and often you may find yourself without much energy to do anything at all. However despite this, summer is one of the most enjoyable times to be in Japan. Myriad festivals, events, firework shows, and outdoor activities are held during this season in all parts of the country. Most of the famous summer festivals in Japan tend to celebrate or center on a specific theme—such as the anniversary of the city, a Shinto or Buddhist celebration, or an important event from history. In addition to these well-known events, there are also smaller local festivals around Japan every weekend celebrating and honoring the summer season itself. These events give people, especially families with children, opportunities to get outside and enjoy their summer vacations. There are food stalls, called yatai, set up at night every weekend, and local restaurants and shops also set up small tables outside to sell their goods.
A food stall selling ikayaki—grilled squid, which is a festival staple all over Japan
A local restaurant worker pounding fresh mochi – rice cakes often filled with red bean pasteI currently live in Hiroshima prefecture and last weekend I spent my night enjoying a local festival in Fukuyama City. Fukuyama is known for its yearly rose festival, castle, and the port town of Tomonoura, which served as the inspiration for the town in the Ghibli movie Ponyo and where part of the 2013 film The Wolverine was shot. This Saturday night festival is called 土曜夜店 (pronounced doyou-yomise), which means Saturday night stalls. Festival food stalls are set up all around the main street near Tenmaya (a local shopping center), which can be seen in front of Fukuyama Station from the south exit.
One of the main streets in FukuyamaThe array of delicious goods that can be found at Japanese festivals is heavenly. The rich smell of beef skewers, the tantalizing aroma of various fried foods, the sweet nostalgic smell of candied apples—imagine breathing this all in as you walk down the streets of your town, enveloped in a soft glow from the setting sun. In addition to these smells you can hear the sound of children laughing, enjoying the different games that the adults have prepared for them to enjoy during the night. While I was walking along the streets of Fukuyama during the festival I could not help but feel a connection to the town and its people. It is easy to feel lost and disconnected when you are packed in a giant crowd of bodies during the more well-known festivals, so this is why I prefer to look for small local events around Japan.
Beef Skewers – another festival staple that is usually sold for around 500 yen
Candied Apples – a favorite among young children
Tornado Potatoes – a recent favorite among young students, flavors include (as shown in the picture from right to left) grilled cheese, consommé, soy sauce and mayonnaise, and barbequed beef
A ring toss game with snacks and drinks that you can winIf you happen to find yourself in Fukuyama this summer, the Saturday night festivals will be held every weekend from June 3rd to August 19th. However no matter where you go in Japan you can still find local events by searching online, asking the international department at city hall, speaking with the tourist center in the station, or even just through word of mouth. From my experience Japanese people are incredibly helpful and friendly, and they seem more than happy to share information about events in their town. Summer is a wonderful time to find yourself in Japan, and no matter what you end up doing you will surely find good memories around every corner.