Tokyo’s summer celebrations start on 6 July and continue through until August, with festivals dedicated to everything from food to awa-odori dancing. Choose which to join with our guide to best summer festivals in the Japanese capital.
Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri 6-10 July
This vibrant event takes place along the 1.2km stretch of road between Ueno and Asakusa, which is an area famous for kitchenware. During the five-days of Shitmachi Tanabata Matsui the area is awash with coloured streamers and decorations. The best time to visit is over the weekend when local businesses hold parades and there are street performances.
Matsugaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0036
Asakusa Hozuki-Ichi 9-10 July
Sensoji Temple dates from 628 and is said to be the oldest temple in Tokyo. Edo legend has it that paying your respects here on 10 July is akin to praying for 46,000 days. This special day is celebrated with the arrival of crowds of people in colourful yukata gowns and with about 100 flower stalls in the temple grounds.
Sensoji Temple, 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0032
Mitama Matsuri 13-16 July
One of Tokyo’s biggest Obon festivals, Mitama Matsuri attracts thousands of visitors to the Yasukuni Shrine. First held in 1947, the four-day festival is best known for the 30,000 lanterns that light the way to the shrine each evening to honour the deceased. There are also parades of mikoshi palanquins, concerts and traditional dance performances.
Yasukuni Shrine, 3-1-1 Kudan-kita, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8246
Ueno Natsu Matsuri 15 July-13 August
This month-long festival sees a host of activities taking place around Shinobazu pond in Ueno Park. The highlights are the toro nagashi ceremony, during which paper lanterns float over the water, and a parade on 22 July featuring colourful teams of dancers. Throughout the four weeks there will be stalls in the park selling souvenirs, and an open-air stage where everything from pop to jazz will be played. Other performances take place at Bentendo temple on the afternoons of 24 and 29 July.
Shinobazu Pond, 2 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007
Kagurazaka Matsuri 26-29 July
Kagurazaka is one of Tokyo’s more refined neighbourhoods and its festival sees hordes of yukata wearers and awa-odori dancers dominate its streets for four days of festivities. During the first two evenings, visit the lantern plant market around Bishamonten Zenkoku-ji Temple and be sure to join in a guided tour of the neighbourhood. On Friday and Saturday night dancers make their way through the area; join in by wearing a yukata and you’ll receive special discounts at the many food and drink stalls along the way.