Visiting Summer Festivals: Natsu-Matsuri
There are many seasonal festivities in Japan yet modern Japanese seems keen on enjoying summer festivals the most. Magazines are filled with exclusive articles on fireworks and popular summer festivals in nearby areas.
People would travel long distance to different prefecture just to see fireworks. Summer festivals are held at local shrines with food stalls and toy stalls. Girls enjoy colorful and graceful yukata, summer kimono, which can only be worn during the summer.
Boys enjoy watching girls wear yukata as they also wear yukata or jinbei, linen two piece wear. Summer festivities now is considered a seasonal entertainment, but history of summer festivities is a little more complex than simple entertainment.
“Summer festival” is written 夏祭り natsu-matsuri, natsu meaning summer, matsuri meaning festival. Maturi derives from verb matsuru which means to humbly present a tribute to ancestors, spirits and gods. Summer festivals held by ancient Japanese were to thank and to make prayers to ancestors, spirits and gods. For farmer society, summer was a time of hard labor and natural disaster from hurricanes, droughts and burning sun. To have ancestors, spirits and gods pacify these natural disasters, summer festivals were held.
As a more recent interpretation, summer festivals are meant for nohryoh, or cooling hot summer heat, by creating an atmosphere to forget heat through entertainment. Some examples are eating food to cool the body like shaved ice, creating man-made atmosphere to cool heat such as riding boats in the river, and enjoying entertainment to give goosebumps like telling scary stories or watching fireworks.
When visiting Japan in the summer, it is recommended to ask locals or hotel reception in advance for any summer festivals in the nearby area. Perhaps prepare yukata or jinbei during the day for outing to evening festivals.