Summer is the time of year when it’s hot and humid, and it’s the best time of the year to be in Japan. When hearing hot and humid most people are likely to think it’s better to stay indoors where there’s a cooler but in Japan they create an interesting incentive for you to go out.
Japan is a country of many festivals and the majority of the festivals start during the hot summer months. The Japanese translation for festival is matsuri. Matsuri are culturally important and one of the things the Japanese look forward to. The word Matsuri comes from the verb to worship. Most festivals are related to the Japanese native Shinto religion which is know for worshiping deities for good harvest, healthy life, etc. The ceremonies held may differ per festival, but one recurring theme is people coming together. Many matsuri also have a firework show with handcrafted fireworks in a great variety of shapes, colors, sizes and effects. These shows are often sponsored by companies and associations.
This article focuses on some of the fireworks festivals close to the Jigokudani Monkey Park in chronological order.
First up is the Iizuna Fire Festival, held every year on August 10th. Iizuna is a town less than an hour’s drive from the Monkey Park and about one hour away from Nagano city. This festival might have the fewest number of fireworks with only 2000 pieces, but don’t let that fool you. The Iizuna Fire Festival has a wonderful fireworks display, but also offers different events such as a giant bonfire, musical performances, laser shows and more. To find out more about this festival click here.
Second is the Rokaku-lake Fireworks and Lantern Float Festival, held every year on August 15th. You can find this festival two hours from the Monkey Park or about one hour from Nagano city. The fireworks show on the lake has about 3000 fireworks. This matsuri has one third more fireworks than the Iizuna Festival so there is quite a lot more bright lights to be seen. Besides the fireworks show there is also a colorful lantern float to be witnessed here. For more information, please click here.
The third matsuri is the Kawanakajima Battlefield Fireworks Festival, held a bit later in the year, on the second Saturday of October. The weather is already a bit chilly around this time of year. You can get to Kawanakajima by bus from Nagano city. Just like the former festival it has 3000 fireworks but the event is held on a historical venue. It also has paper floats floating down the river. To find out more about this festival, please check this page.
The last fireworks festival to introduce in the area is the Ebisu-ko Fireworks Festival, held November 23rd. This festival is definitely the coldest of the festivals explained in this article. Though daytime might still be pleasant weather-wise in the bigger cities, the evening gets quite cold. So when opting to go to this fireworks festival in late autumn, bring some extra layers of clothing! The Ebisu-ko Fireworks Festival sports as many as 15,000 fireworks, almost twice the amount of the the previous three combined. This two hour fireworks show gives you a unique experience in late November. The festival is on walking distance from Nagano station, making it the most accessible fireworks festival in the area. To find out more about this festival, please click here!
That’s it for the main fireworks shows in the Northern Nagano area, so if you are in Japan during these matsuri, make sure to not miss out on them!