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Late August is always a good time for dancing in the streets, with many major festivals kicking off. The original yosakoi dance started life in Kochi in 1954, where it was intended to help revitalise the struggling post-war economy, and Tokyo's own Super Yosakoi festival has been going for over a decade now. The event sees more than 100-odd teams of brightly attired dancers trying to outdo each other as they strut their stuff to the rhythm of the naruko – a type of clapper that the people of Kochi originally used to scare birds away from their fields.
One of Tokyo's favourite traditional festivals, the Azabu-Juban Noryo Matsuri (noryo literally translates as 'cool of the evening') has been going on for over 50 years now. It returns in late August for two days of dancing, performances, live music and international food, along with snack and craft stalls set up by local businesses and visiting representatives from all over the country. Dust off your yukata and prepare to battle some serious crowds.
Sangenjaya, known as Sancha among the locals, holds its annual Latin Festival with several live performances throughout these two days. Munch on some traditional festival food while taking in the scenery of the spectacular samba parade, taking place on August 25 from 1.30pm.
Along with Tokushima and Koenji, the Minima Koshigaya Awa Odori is one of Japan's three largest Awa dances, and it will be held around Minami Koshigaya Station. This festival is also one of the biggest summer festivals in Saitama and attracts roughly 750,000 spectators each year. One of the main features of the Awa Odori is the local Koshigaya and Tokushima dance troupes who will be putting on full-fledged performances. You can expect many variations of the Awa Odori including the Kumi Odori and Hanashi Odors, and there’ll be so many dancers (roughly 6,500) that you’ll be able to feel the heat of the action on your skin.The dances will be performed in the form of a parade as well as on a main stage.
This lively Roppongi Hills event features traditional Bon Odori dance performed in a purpose-built arena by yukata-clad dancers – feel free to join in, as long as you're appropriately dressed. Decorations add to the atmosphere, while the surrounding stalls cater to hungry crowds with all the usual festival fare, as well as gourmet choices provided by area restaurants. Note that there's no dancing on Friday.
Tokyo Midtown gears up for the hot season with a packed programme of summery fun. The complex interior will be decorated with wind chimes, while the expansive outdoor lawn, which will be illuminated at night, is where to dip your feet in a cool stream or sit down for some refreshments at the Roku Midpark Lounge. To top things off, there's a huge art garden, with digital art creating a motif of a Japanese-style rock garden through light and fog special effects, combined with a digital hanabi (fireworks) show.
This ‘pop-up beach’ at Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, available for a limited time only, features white sand, palm trees and fluttering millennial-pink flags. You can enjoy this photogenic spot during the day as well as at night. In the day, feast on summer food in a dining space where you can lie back on deck chairs at a lawn, just like you’re at a resort. In addition to mouthwatering bites such spicy tacos and tropical kakigori with mango and dragonfruit, you can cool down with a frozen cocktail from the Red Brick Grill Wagon that's made with grapefruit juice and lychee liqueur. From 5pm, the area is an adults-only zone, where you can revel in good music with plenty of booze. This is the closest you can get to a 'beach' getaway without leaving the city.
Around 10,000 dancers pile out on to the streets of Koenji over the two days of the annual Awa-Odori, undoubtedly one of Tokyo's most energetic festivals – and one with crowds to match. The awa-odori ('awa dance') tradition can be traced back to Tokushima in Shikoku, where the story goes that the local daimyo plied his citizens with booze to celebrate the completion of the local castle in 1586, leading to a citywide outbreak of dancing in the streets. Whatever the accuracy of that tale, the enthusiasm was contagious, and Koenji has been holding a dance of its own since 1957. While the action starts at 5pm, you'll need to arrive much earlier if you want to snag one of the best viewing spots.
Spanning over five weekends, the Yebisu Garden Cinema is the biggest outdoor cinema event in the city. Films to be screened include long-lasting classics such as 'The Wizard of Oz', as well as more recent favourites like 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'. The screenings are free, so there’s no better opportunity to plan an evening picnic with friends to make the most of these summer nights.
Featuring 100,000 bright yellow himawari, the Kiyose Sunflower Festival is the closest a Tokyoite can get to frolicking through a flower field. Located an express train ride from Ikebukuro, Kiyose is known for their friendly flowers contrasting with the bright post-rainy season blue sky. Don’t forget to grab a bouquet of just-cut flowers or a basket of fresh farm vegetables to take home. Itching to get that perfect Instagram shot? Luckily, the festival hosts an annual photo contest that anyone can participate in.
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