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Photo By: Saga Balloon Fiesta Organizing Committee
Largest City

Saga International Balloon Festival

Witness over 100 unique hot air balloons take flight over the serene Saga countryside.

By Jake Yoder

Every year, hundreds of colorful hot air balloons dot the Saga City skyline during the Saga International Balloon Festival. The festival is Saga Prefecture’s largest event, drawing between 800,000 and 1 million spectators each year. Held each year in early November since 1978, attendees can witness professional hot air balloon competitions, unique balloons shaped like animals and popular cartoon characters, and even have a chance to get up close and personal with balloons and learn how to pilot them.

Taking place alongside Saga City’s Kase River, the festival is one of the largest sky sports events in Asia, drawing over 100 balloon pilots from all over the world each year. The festival has even been home to the biennial FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship three times, most recently in 2016.

High Flying Competitions

Saga International Balloon Festival

Photo by: Saga Balloon Fiesta Organizing Committee Let the games begin!

The main draw of the festival are the competitions, held each day early in the morning and in mid-afternoon. Hot air balloon competitions are judged based on accuracy instead of speed, with each balloon pilot dropping small sandbags as close as possible to a large target. The competitions are planned to take place each day of the festival, though they could be canceled on the day of the event due to weather.

Hot Air Fun

Saga International Balloon Festival

Photo by: Saga Balloon Fiesta Organizing Committee Up, up and away.

Aside from the sporting aspect of hot air balloons, another festival highlight is Balloon Fantasia. Held each morning of the festival, this event showcases quirky balloons shaped like animals, cartoon mascots and more. Weather permitting, attendees can see these balloons up close before they take flight.

Each afternoon, eventgoers can also attend hot air balloon school to learn more about the balloons. In this class, attendees can hear from pilots and crew about the process of operating hot air balloons.

Nighttime Wonders

Saga International Balloon Festival

Photo by: Saga Balloon Fiesta Organizing Committee A majestic scene after sunset.

The final two days of the festival also feature a special nighttime event called La Montgolfier Nocturne (Night Mooring). During this event, balloons take to the skies after dark, illuminated by their fires. The balloons will fly alongside special music and are joined in the sky alongside fireworks during the grand finale.

Things To Know


The festival takes place in early November every year, but the specific dates vary each year, so be sure to check ahead of time. Admission to the festival is free.

How To Get There


By bus

Take the local train from JR Saga station for five minutes to JR Balloon Saga station.

By car

As there isn’t much parking at the festival site, it is recommended to park at one of the many paid parking lots within Saga City and take the train or a special shuttle bus to the festival grounds. You can find more information about public transportation for the festival here.

Where To Stay

Saga International Guesthouse Hagakure
  • 2-4-12 Konohigashi, Saga-shi, Saga, 840-0804 Japan
  • ¥3,800 - ¥33,600
  • 3.5/5 (15 reviews)
  • 4.7 km
Hotel New Otani Saga
  • 1-2 Yokamachi, Saga-shi, Saga, 840-0047 Japan
  • ¥12,780 - ¥34,200
  • 4/5 (772 reviews)
  • 4.7 km
Saga City Hotel
  • 1-7-31 Ekimaechuo, Saga-shi, Saga, 840-0801 Japan
  • ¥5,700 - ¥22,800
  • 3.84/5 (3,277 reviews)
  • 4.9 km
Comfort Hotel Saga
  • 1-14-38 Ekimaechuo, Saga-shi, Saga, 840-0801 Japan
  • ¥6,900 - ¥19,500
  • 4.9 km
Hotel Route-Inn Saga Ekimae
  • 1-9-50 Ekimaechuo, Saga-shi, Saga, 840-0801 Japan
  • ¥9,000 - ¥19,500
  • 3.98/5 (1,122 reviews)
  • 5.0 km

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