Enshu Flying Dragon Festival
See a dragon spit fireworks into the night sky.
If you’d like to welcome summer with a great big bang, head to Hamamatsu for fire, dancing and a dragon. The city in Shizuoka Prefecture is known for its kite festival on the Nakatajima sand dunes during Golden Week. However, summer is just as fun with the Enshu Hamakita Kiryu Matsuri (also known as the Flying Dragon Festival) held in Nakase, on the banks of the Tenryu River.
The festival honors Ryujin, the dragon king. In Japan, he is known as the god of water, including the rivers and seas. Ryujin is very important in Japanese mythology and often appears in popular folktales such as Urashima Taro, where a fisherman rescues Ryujin’s daughter and is rewarded with a visit to the god’s underwater palace.
What to expect
Every year, locals install a 60-meter-long dragon kite on the Tenryu river bank to honor Ryujin. Long ago, the river used to be known as Tenryu rampage, particularly when it caused large floods in the area.
By day, as the red dragon kite flutters in the wind, locals fly large kites by the river and battle for supremacy. At the end of the kite flying contest, in the evening, a large bonfire is lit. All the participating teams circle the flames and wave their district flags until a winner is declared.
On the second and concluding night of the festival, the dragon kite transforms into a glittering spectacle against the night sky. Fireworks drip from its body and issue from its fanged mouth, much to the audience’s delight.
But if you also catch the first day, there are celebrations at the square near Hamakita station where the atmosphere is electric with drum shows, tai chi, Yosakoi dance, Polynesian dance and more.