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15 Summer Festivals in Shizuoka

Want to paddle down a river in a wooden washtub? See a pirate ship blaze on the water? These festivals have all that and more.

Summer in Japan is hot and sticky but the one thing that makes it all worth it is the natsu matsuri (summer festivals). These come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and each prefecture claims unique interpretations of the annual event. Shizuoka Prefecture is no exception.

The prefecture known for its tasty green tea, wasabi and, of course, striking views of Mount Fuji has some weird and wonderful festivals that are not going to be quite as crowded as the Tokyo ones. Want to paddle down a river in a wooden washtub? Watch locals pull a massive phallus-shaped deity through the streets? See a pirate ship blaze on the water? These 15 festivals from June through August have all that and more.

June

1. Fun and fertility at Dontsuku Festival

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Every June, Inatori in Higashi Izu Town hosts a fertility festival. Local men and women carry a huge goshintai (object of worship) to Dontsuku Shrine. The goshintai is shaped like a giant penis and is said to bring good luck to married couples. Also, be sure to try penis-shaped snacks on sale, which may remind you of bachelorette party treats back home. Read the full story on Dontsuku Festival.

2. Sparks fly at Enshu Hamakita Hiryu Festival (Flying Dragon Festival)

Photo by: planetx 44

Every May or early June (depending on the year), Hamakita in Hamamatsu city hosts a lively festival to honor the god of the Tenryu River. In the day, huge kites are flown along the Tenryu River and at night, there’s a torch and dragon head parade, complete with taiko drumming and chanting. The highlight of the festival is the Hiryu Niagara, fireworks that drip from the dragon’s torso and escape from its open mouth into the sky. See the full story on the Flying Dragon Festival.

3. Yoshiwara Gion Festival: The 300-year-old matsuri

Photo by: d_rew13 Get together!

This 300-year-old festival in Fuji City, based on its famous predecessor in Kyoto, is the biggest of its kind in the Tokai region. It’s hosted by six shrines in Fuji City every second weekend in June. Called Otenno-san by locals, it involves many mikoshi (portable shrines) and 21 dashi (floats) which take part in a float showdown in the evening.

4. Pretty colors at the Shimoda Hydrangea Festival

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June in Japan means the dreaded rainy season but the hydrangeas (ajisai) make the wet days more bearable in Shimoda city. See three million blooms during the Hydrangea Festival at Shimoda Park every June. Climb the hill to get a panoramic view of the garden and the town’s scenic coastline.

July

4. Not quite a fest but still awesome: Matsukawa Wash Tub Boat Race

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If you’re into quirky summer events, make a beeline for Ito City, which is not too far from the popular onsen hotspot of Hakone. Every year, on the first Sunday in July, Matsukawa River hosts a 400-meter race. The catch: you have to row downriver in a tarai (wooden wash tub) with a wooden rice paddle. There are many races including a group race, international race (for foreign tourists) and a traveler race (for those wearing yukata). The race starts from Ideyu Bridge in the morning from around 9:30 a.m.

6. Here’s to love at Shimizu Tanabata Festival

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You don’t have to go all the way to Sendai to enjoy the annual Tanabata Festival in August. In July, Shimizu in Shizuoka City hosts its own version of the festival that celebrates star-crossed lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi. It’s the biggest Tanabata event in Shizuoka, with lots of colorful paper streamers and decorations in storefronts and along the streets.

7. Floats, floats and more floats at Atami Kogashi Festival

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Although famous for its hot spring resorts, head to the seaside city of Atami this summer for something different. Every July 15 and 16, the city hosts a float parade. Several floats roll along Route 135 on both days. Traditional wood-carved floats and more modern interpretations compete for a grand prize.

8. Pirate ships and fireworks at Dogashima Fire Festival

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Almost every city and town in Japan boasts of having the best fireworks over summer but how many also have an exploding pirate ship? On July 24 in Dogashima, the coastal area on the western side of Shizuoka’s Izu Peninsula, locals re-enact a legend where the town people destroyed a pirate ship with fire arrows. Also, if you’re into cosplay, channel your best Jack Sparrow to compete for the best-dressed pirate prize. Fireworks are held annually at Dogashima Park from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. This festival is more difficult to get to without a car, but staying in one of the nearby onsen towns should make it a fun getaway.

9. Drumming up some heat at Mount Fuji Taiko Festival

Photo by: yoko.yujii •

What’s a unique way to experience Mount Fuji? Attend the Mount Fuji Taiko Festival in Gotemba! Sink into the sound against the backdrop of the most photographed mountain in Japan. Teams from all over the country compete and perform on the world’s largest taiko (Japanese drum). The festival takes place on the last Sunday of July. Tourists also flock to Gotemba for its gigantic outlet mall, if you have time to stick around the area.

10. All-city dance party at Fuji Festival

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On the last Sunday in July, Fuji Festival takes place. It includes an annual Princess Kaguya look-alike contest. She’s from the famous Japanese folktale where a bamboo cutter finds the beautiful baby princess in a bamboo stalk. The festival also has a citizen’s dance with more than 3,000 participants, fireworks, taiko drumming, and more! Even if you aren’t a local, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to join in the mega dance parade!

August

 11. Feelin’ breezy at Shimizu Port Festival

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Shimizu Port’s namesake festival is definitely one of the main summer festivals in Shizuoka. The three-day event (Aug. 3-5) in Shizuoka city includes the kappore so odori, 20,000 dancers dancing together in the street on the first two days. Tour the port’s naval destroyer and watch Hinode Pier light up with 10,000 fireworks on the last night.

  • http://www.maguro-m.com/ (Japanese)
  • JR Shimizu station east exit (Minato exit)
  • Shizuoka Railway Shinchisui station (10 min on foot to venue)
  • Shimizu - Map

12. Chill with the locals at Nagaizumi Waku Waku Festival

Photo by: nagaizumiwaku2

This wacky-sounding summer festival located in Nagaizumi Town in eastern Shizuoka usually happens on the first Saturday in August. This citizens’ festival is called waku waku, Japanese onomatopoeia for happy or excited. Shake your tail-feather with 2,000 plus locals who don their favorite costumes and dance in the street to win a grand prize.

13. Epitome of summer at Fukuroi Enshu Fireworks Festival

On Aug. 6, get those eyedrops ready as tens of thousands of hanabi (fireworks) bloom in the night sky in Fukuroi City. This is one of the best spots in the prefecture for those eponymous summer fireworks. The festival attracts thousands annually, so pack a picnic and go early to grab a good spot at the Fukuroi Enshu Fireworks Festival.

14. Uniquely oceanside at Anjin Festival

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A spectacular festival that honors Miura Anjin (formerly William Adams) who was ordered by the Shogun Tokugawa to build Japan’s first Western-style sailing ships in Matsukawa. This mammoth three-day festival (Aug. 8-10) includes hula dancing performances, a drum battle, tourou nagashi (floating lanterns) and one hour of 10,000 fireworks shot over the sea. Find a spot beachside early and enjoy the fireworks!

15. Tradition lives at Mishima Summer Festival

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This three-day summer festival (August 15-17) is Mishima city’s biggest festival of the year. There’s something for everyone at the fest located at the top of the Izu Peninsula: a floats parade, samba parade and traditional music. You can also check out the fantastic feat of yabusame (horseback archery) at Mishima Taisha Shrine. Another festival highlight is the lighting of tetzutsu hanabi (hand-held fireworks). Don’t forget to check out Mishima Skywalk while in the area.

If you have a chance to catch any of these festivals and post on social media, don’t forget to tag us: #GaijinPotTravel.