Best August Obon festivals in Japan?
April 28, 2014 9:51 PM   Subscribe

The Obon festival occurs in both July and August in Japan, with different regions choosing different dates. I'll be in Tokyo in August, but Tokyo celebrates in July... does anyone have any recommendations for where I should travel in Japan for the days of the Obon festival that would be celebrating in August? :) Can bullet train anywhere. Bonus points for great scenery and extensive Obon celebrations.
posted by Televangelist to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Haven't been personally* but the Tokushima Awa Odori would be high on my list. Once you are in Shikoku there is lots else to see.

*All three times Obon rolled around I left the country.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:22 PM on April 28, 2014

We just went to Shikoku for the first time. We drove to Kochi (from the Japan Sea Coast, where we live) and it was awesome. So the Awa Odori, combined with a trip to another part of Shikoku would be great. The only challenge, and it is a significant challenge, is that the Awa Odori in Tokushima is perhaps the most popular August festival in all over Japan. It will be jam-packed there, so how you would get accommodations I have no clue, and I research this sort of thing as a side business.

The second-most popular summer festival in Japan is the Nebuta giant lantern festival in Tohoku, in early August.

Once again, there will be massive crowds.

O-Bon is not a great time to travel, because everyone in the whole damn country is traveling. The trains and planes are jam-packed, and if they are not jam-packed, everything is closed. O-Bon is a family holiday. The dead come back home at that time.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:37 PM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Gujo Hachiman has a dance party that lasts all night; I think it has a mention/entry in Lonely Planet. The town is very quaint and set along a river...the scenery is beautiful.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:59 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with KokuRyu. I think that the Nebuta in Aomori is the best summer festival in Japan. Buy a costume in a local supermarket and take part, it's really friendly. Years ago I stayed at the free camp site and the people there were incredibly friendly, and many of them were "jumping" in the festival.

According to this list the Samba Festival in Asakusa is also on in August, along with many small local Bon Odori around Tokyo.
posted by nevan at 12:27 AM on April 29, 2014

As far as I know, most of the country now celebrates Obon in August. I'm from Tokyo, and my parents are from Tokyo, and most of our local Obon celebrations happen around August 14 & 15.

I would suggest trying to find a smaller Obon celebration. Awaodori in Shikoku and Nebuta in Aomori would be fantastic, but finding accomodations will be extremely difficult. Seconding Kokuryu - if you want to take the train during Obon, book now. It is one of the most jam-packed times of the year. I *think* you can use the Japan Rail Pass during this time, but many other discount tickets are void during this peak period.

Also, the Memorial Day for the end of World War II is also during this period, so any region with ties to major events during WWII (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc) will also be pretty packed.
posted by xmts at 12:51 AM on April 29, 2014

Hiroshima is good
Easy to get too but a smaller city
And lots to do there
posted by edtut at 3:30 AM on April 29, 2014

Anyone else have experience with Gujo Hachiman? That looks pretty great, to be honest...
posted by Televangelist at 6:42 PM on April 29, 2014

I haven't been there, but have lived near there on and off since 1994. I have no idea how easy it is going to be to get accommodations, but on the other hand it is relatively close to Nagoya and the Shinkansen (it must take about 90 minutes to get there from Nagoya) and after that, if you like, you could take a trip up to the Japan Sea coast, with Kanazawa as a destination.

Kanazawa is a fantastic, lovely city, great for walking, with awesome fresh fish at Omi market, and some nice shopping in Korinbo.

You had mentioned wanting to go to Oki, but the Noto Peninsula (my family has been connected to Noto since the 90's, and I lived there for a while, in Shika) is also pretty wild and off the beaten track.

Wajima is the typical tourist draw, and it is like traveling back in time 30 years. So Kanazawa could be your base, and then you return to Tokyo via Nagano (the Hakutaka and the Snow Rabbit connect Kanazawa with the Nagano Shinkansen).
posted by KokuRyu at 6:58 PM on April 29, 2014

Thanks for the input! I'm not too worried about getting accommodations at this point, at least if we head to Gujo Hachiman -- I speak and read Japanese, and I used to live near Nagoya, so I can call on friends in the area if necessary.

I think you might be confusing me with someone else re: Oki, but it's definitely on my radar...
posted by Televangelist at 7:02 PM on April 29, 2014

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