August is here, and if you are about to leave for Japan (or if you are already there), numerous events and matsuri are waiting to enchant you with the warmth of the dances and the majesty of colors and tradition.
On August 6, Hiroshima remembers the victims of the nuclear bomb and calls on the world to pray for peace.
On the same days, Tanabata is celebrated in regions loyal to the lunar calendar (Tokyo, Sendai and around the Tohoku).
At mid-month, you may join Obon, which is celebrated all over Japan, but it is in Kyoto and Tokushima that you can see the events with particular folk and colors.
Concluding the month, you may want to dance at the Asakusa Samba Festival in Tokyo.
Hiroshima Celebration on August 6th
At 8:15 on August 6, 1945, the city of Hiroshima tragically entered in history being the first city in the world to be hit by a nuclear bomb.
Since then, every 6 August, the city wakes up with a mournful tolling of bells calling on all citizens to observe a minute of commemoration for the victims and a prayer of hope for peace.
The mayor of the city, broadcasting worldwide, expresses deepest thoughts and laudable hopes during the ceremony of peace, which is held in the Peace Park, before the Peace Museum.
Then it is the time of the poignant moments of deposition of the lanterns on the water in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) and the silence of prayer.
In some areas of Japan, as for example in the Tohoku or in the city of Fussa, it is celebrated the Tanabata, the Festival of the Stars, which recalls the meeting of the unfortunate lovers (Vega and Altair), who only the seventh day of the seventh month may meet again.
More than ever, in August, the Tohoku region is worth visiting, concentrating 4 matsuri of national importance: the traditional Kanto Matsuri in Akita City, the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, the Sendai Tanabata, and the most recent, but equally renowned Hanagasa Festival in Yamagata.
The parades that animate the evenings, between 2 and 7 August, in Aomori are truly impressive: dozens of giant floats (nine feet wide by five high), adorned with spectacular reconstructions in washi paper, decorated with mythological or divine figures, inspired by the Kabuki theater or the most popular characters from the TV series NHK Taiga Drama, dance through the streets to the rhythm of drums, cymbals and horns.
In the middle days of the month, the cult of ancestors fills the facades of houses all over Japan with the exhibition of lanterns, as an excellent guide for the return of the ancestors who come to visit their descendants.
At the end of the commemorations, lanterns will be left to float on the waters of rivers and ocean, to take back the souls of the deceased in the afterlife.
Alongside this exciting tradition, practiced across the nation, each locality pays homage to their dead with peculiar manifestations.
One of the most famous is the Awa Odori, August 12 to 15, held in Tokushima, whose streets at sunset, are filled with hundreds and hundreds of dancers (ren), from all over the world, dressed with a yukata, which dance along the parade route.
Asakusa Samba Festival in Tokyo
Last but not least, the month ends with the color and rhythm of the samba that invades the streets of Tokyo on the last Saturday of August (at 31th this year).
Beautiful dancers, theatrical costumes, sensual dances enliven the city, during the largest annual samba festival in the country : the Asakusa Samba Carnival Parade.
Once again, Japan is waiting for you with a month full of thoughtful events and folk music to make you appreciate the culture and enjoy your stay!