Summer in Japan is the season of festivals (matsuri) and fireworks (hanabi). Right now I’ll talk about the festivals that go on all around Japan. They take place for many different reasons and celebrate many different things. The pictures you see are from a festival in Otaru, Hokkaido called the Ushio Matsuri. This is the tide festival that they hold to thank the ocean for the bountiful year and pray for the growth and protection of the city and its citizens. Matsuri usually last a few days and come with a parade of some sort (and occasionally fireworks at night). The participants in the parade vary by the festival. Because this was a tide festival, those in the parade dance to Ushio Ondo, and taiko drums feature prominently. Other Buddhist festivals include shrines (called mikoshi) that are carried in a procession by participants, while still other matsuris have dances such as the Bon Odori.These festivals take place all over Japan, and I can assure you that one will take place somewhere almost every week or weekend! There is a ton of variety and so much history behind each one. I think that this is one of the most unique things about Japan, and something that you would be hard pressed to find in any other country. I am trying to see as many as possible while I’m here, in order to get the full experience of Japanese culture!