Natsumatsuri (Summer Festival) (夏祭り)
"Natsumatsuri" is a collective term for festivals observed in summer.
In many cases, it means a festival held in Japan mostly from the beginning of July through the end of August.
Any festival held before June, even though it is in 'early summer', is hardly called 'Natsumatsuri'.
To the contrary, festivals in and after September, if held in July under the lunar calendar, are often treated according to summer festivals.
Hereinafter, the term natsumatsuri refers to the summer festivals held in Japan.
Summer festivals in Japan:
Many summer festivals in Japan were either originally associated with Urabon-e festival, Tanabata festival, Gion festival, and other festivals, or had a peripheral relationship with them. Therefore, people celebrate them from June to July under the lunar calendar. Also many of the natsumatsuri festivals tend to have originated in the events observed in rural communities to relieve farmers' fatigue from their agricultural work in the summer season, or originated in the events observed in urban communities to hold memorial services for the people who died from epidemic in summer before the Edo Period.
At the same time, however, a large number of summer festivals have changed their nature in the process of modernization, so that their origins have become obscure in the minds of people who tend to observe natsumatsuri as a glamorous event rather than a solemn ceremony.
Above all, natsumatsuri festivals held in a few days before or after the Bon festival of lunar calendar are said to be deeply emotional because many people return to their homes in this season and reunite with each other.
According to folklore research, a natsumatsuri festival is also interpreted to be a result of development of ancient utagaki (a poetry reading party).
At some port towns, a variety of natsumatsuri with abundant local colors are unfurled, including 'Minato Matsuri' (port festivals). A lot of festivals at shrines are also observed in this season.
Events held for a natsumatsuri festival:
Bon festival dance
Events performed on a specially arranged stage
Performances of popular songs
Performances of characters (in many cases, characters of animated cartoons on TV, or those of squadron series, and so on.)
Representative natsumatsuri festivals
The three major festivals in the Tohoku region
Aomori Nebuta (the nighttime festival in Aomori) (Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture)
Kanto (the festival with demonstration of long poles hanging many lanterns) (Akita City, Akita Prefecture)
Hirosaki Nebuta (the nighttime festival in Hirosaki) (Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture)
Kiryu Yagibushi Matsuri (the dancing festival to the accompaniment of folk song, Yagibushi, held in Kiryu) (Gunma Prefecture)
Three major natsumatsuri festivals in Osaka (Osaka Prefecture)
Shan-Shan Matsuri (Shan-Shan Festival) (Tottori Prefecture)
Awa Dancing Festival (Tokushima Prefecture)
Yosakoi Matsuri (Yosakoi Festival) (Kochi Prefecture)
Summer Festivals in the World:
Sabantuy is a summer festival observed in the middle basin of the Volga river in Russia.