Monday 2 July 2012
Japan’s festival season is off to a sizzling hot start
This is the time of the year where Japan braces itself for the upcoming summer temperatures and for another reason too – matsuri (festivals)!! Japan is the home to a whole smorgasbord of festivals that take place throughout the Japanese archipelago, each possessing its own distinctive history and tradition. But it is during the summer that some of the most exciting matsuri take place.
One of the most famous is Gion Matsuri, which is a month-long event that takes place in July in Kyoto. The highlight of this celebration takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 17 when a parade of 32 floats make their way along the main streets of the city. The floats are so colourfully ornate and exquisitely crafted by local craftsmen that they have been described as “floating art museums”. Sitting on top of these floats are children wearing traditional makeup and musicians playing a variety of instruments. As the procession slowly moves among the 3 kilometre route, you are sure to find a spot where you can gaze upon it in wonder.
For those of you who want to tap your feet and swing your arms in the air, you just have to go to the Awa Dance festival on the island of Shikoku. Japan’s largest dance festival, it attracts over 1.3 million tourists every year. While musicians play taiko drums, flutes, shamisen (lute) and kane (bell), groups of dancers and musicians called ren dance to highly choreographed pieces. Bedecked in traditional summer kimonos and distinctly local hats, the performers chant and swing as they make their way through the streets. You will be hard pressed to not join in!
Unique Japan Tours is running the Lost in Japan Tour that will travel to Shikoku for the Awa Dance Festival. The tour departs Osaka on August 10. Details can be found here: http://www.uniquejapantours.com/Small-Group-Tours/Lost-in-Japan