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August: Summer Festival

Hashimoto Miki

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(The Japan Forum)

Along with vacations and trips to the beach, summer festivals are one of the highlights of summer vacation for Japanese children. Lots of famous festivals take place across Japan, attracting many tourists. But smaller festivals are also held at local shopping streets, community centers, children's centers, shrines, and other places.

Summer festivals became popular in the Edo period (1603-1868) as events to relieve summer fatigue. Essential elements of festivals today are Bon dancing, food stalls, and fireworks. People gather in their local communities and enjoy Bon dancing to rhythmic music. The tradition is based on Buddhist custom, but nowadays the music that people dance to include anime theme songs.

During summer festivals, many shrines and shopping streets are lined with stalls called yatai, which sell such foods as okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes) and cotton candy. After dark, spectators cheer at giant fireworks that fill the sky with light and color.

One exciting way of enjoying summer festivals is to stroll around in a light summer kimono known as a yukata and eat different foods offered at the stalls. Games, karaoke contests, film screenings, and other fun events are also often held at these festivals. For many children, festival days are special occasions on which they are allowed to stay out until later than usual.

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