When the rainy season comes to an end, and true summer is finally underway, a steady stream of Natsu Matsuri, or Summer Festivals, unfolds across Japan. Natsu Matsuri occur across the month of July, sprinkled between the end of the rainy season and the Bon Festival in August. While many of them originally had ties to religious events such as Obon, Tanabata, and Gion Festivals, today Natsu Matsuri are largely secular events focused on celebrating the joy of life in the summertime.
Some Natsu Matsuri have a Shinto spin and are dedicated to a local neighborhood deity. These are called Mikoshi Matsuri and feature a ritual surrounding a smaller, portable version of the local shrine called a mikoshi. Volunteers dressed in a traditional costume work together to lift the shrine up and down to amuse the local deity. There is often a parade where the shrine is carried along the streets of the town, accompanied by music and a type of rhythmic chanting called wasshoi to set the pace for the lifts. Mikoshi Matsuri are lively affairs-- the mikoshi bearers’ enthusiasm radiating out to the onlookers and theirs radiating back in return.
Mikoshi Matsuri only comprise one subtype of Natsu Matsuri. In general, Natsu Matsuri are known for three things in particular-- food stalls carrying all kinds of delicious street foods, carnival-style games, and, once the sun goes down, fireworks. Matsuri food stalls sell a delicious selection of deep fried, grilled, baked and sweet treats. Yakisoba, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki abound. Food on sticks like ikayaki, and kushiyaki are much enjoyed by festival goers, and desserts