My First Summer Festival in Japan – Takasaki Matsuri

It’s almost the end of the Summer meaning Matsuri or festival time in Japan and I was lucky enough to attend my first Summer Festival in Japan this year, Takasaki Matsuri. Which was held on the first Saturday and Sunday of August in the center of Takasaki, Gunma, and it happens to be one of the largest fireworks festivals with close to 700,000 people attending annually.

Many shrines have events, tons of food stalls set up, and the streets are lined with lanterns while a Mikoshi (portable Shinto shrine) is being carried around. The honorific form of “Mikoshi” is “Omikoshi.” The Mikoshi resembles a miniature building, with pillars, walls, a roof, a veranda and a railing. Shinto followers believe that it serves as the vehicle to transport a deity in Japan while moving between the main shrine and temporary shrine during a festival or when moving to a new shrine.

I was lucky enough to be directly behind the hard working people who were carrying the Mikoshi around while a Japanese taiko drum band were performing shortly behind. They were rather friendly and allowed me to take a picture while performing!

The Mikoshi are quite heavy and require lots of people to carry it on their shoulders and they often bounce it up and down to the rhythm of the chants.

While following the crowd, fireworks were often going off in the distance. It was an enjoyable fascinating experience. My wife and I followed the Mikoshi for almost one hour while enjoying the incredible atmosphere of the festival until we reached the final destination for the Mikoshi.

After that, we enjoyed the festival by walking around trying out street food while the 15,000 fireworks illuminated the night sky.

Certain stalls were selling drinks that came in a light-bulb cup that illuminated different colors, I felt like a kid and had to try it.

After burning off what we ate by walking around the whole festival, we decided it was time to fully enjoy the festival by watching the fireworks ceremony together.

Overall my first summer festival in Japan was a truly memorable and unforgettable experience. If you’re lucky enough to visit Japan during the summer festival season, I highly recommend attending a local summer festival.