Summer in Japan simply isn’t fun right now because of the pandemic. Of course I understand why festivals of any kind are out of the question right now, but I’d like to take a moment and lament their temporary loss.
Japan in the summer is hot, humid and altogether unpleasant unless you’re up north like in Aomori or Hokkaido. For me, the most unpleasant place to be during the summer is Kyoto. Thanks to it being surrounded by mountains, Kyoto is like a bowl that just soaks up the heat and humidity and keeps it there for a while. Going outside your door in the morning during the summer can be entirely painful. I think Florida in America during the summer is a good comparison.
Still, I love summers in Japan mostly because they offer festivals. There are classic festivals where people wear summer kimono called yukata and walk among street vendors offering games, snacks and random prizes like goldfish. Then you have bon-odori festivals where a stage is set up in the center of the festival, and people dance in a circle around it.
Last, and my favorite of all the festivals, are fireworks festivals. They have the street vendors and sometimes even bon-odori, but all against a backdrop of fireworks that go off in succession for sometimes an hour.
The most stunning fireworks festival I’ve been to was in Kamakura, where they set the fireworks off in the water while people watch from the beach (see the photo above). I loved seeing the fireworks reflected in the water while sitting on the beach, enjoying the waves at night.
I miss walking down the road at night heading toward the fireworks in a crowd of people, eyeing the food stalls along the way and wondering which I should pick. I miss feeling excited to see the fireworks and wondering what kind they would be doing that year. I even miss the mass exodus following the fireworks display. There were times I would have to walk to the station before the closest one to avoid the crowds. I never thought I’d miss that.
I’m looking forward to a summer in the near future that is not simply to be endured.