The Narita Gion Festival is a summer festival in Narita, and it is one of the most popular events that people visit Narita for, along with the New Year Holidays and Setsubun-e.
*Setsubun-e means division of seasons,and the event held to pray for good health and happiness.
Every year, the great excitement of this festival surpasses ordinary summer festivals. This article introduces festival information and how to enjoy it.
Narita is a town with an international airport, and it is also a popular tourist destination. Many tourists visit Narita to go to the approach to the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple and enjoy the townscape with a great atmosphere.
On holidays, in particular, people flock to the approach to the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, and sometimes you get stuck in a jam. However, a few times a year, this area gets even so much busier.
One of these events is Narita’s historic festival, the Narita Gion Festival.
The Narita Gion Festival has a history of over 300 years.
The Narita Gion Festival is a big Narita event held in July each year.
It is a traditional summer festival with about 300 years of history, and over 400,000 people visit over the three-day festival period.
During the festival period, street vendors fill the approach to the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, where festival floats and yatai stalls travel through.
The busiest time is in the early evening when the approach to the temple is packed with people, and sometimes you can barely move.
Since 2019, the festival had been suspended for two years due to the spread of COVID-19. However, in 2022, the festival was held on a smaller scale for the first time in three years. The festival was highly successful.
The Narita Gion Festival has unique features and things to enjoy you don’t find in other summer festivals.
Large Festival Floats/Yatai Stalls Travel Through the Approach to the Temple
First, the biggest features of this festival are the festival float and yatai stalls.
In the Narita Gion Festival, there are ten festival floats and yatai stalls, as well as one mikoshi (portable shrine) that travel around the town of Narita.
Each festival float and yatai stall has unique characteristics, with different accessories and different mounted dolls.
Some festival floats were made with a budget of 100 million yen, with amazing and magnificent accessories.
You can enjoy the musical accompaniment on the festival floats and yatai stalls as well as the festival dance by dancers at the front and the back and children wearing cute costumes. Another thing you can enjoy is the spectacular hauling of festival floats and yatai stalls.
The approach to the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is narrow, and the whole approach is hilly.
Large festival floats and yatai stalls take up all the space of the approach to the temple. Carriers energetically pull festival floats and yatai stalls up the approach to the temple. It’s something spectacular you don’t often see at other festivals.
The traffic is essentially blocked while festival floats and yatai stalls travel through. Visitors need to stay at the side of the approach to the temple to avoid getting hit.
Still, being able to see these up close is enjoyable.
How to Enjoy the Narita Gion Festival
There are many more features and enjoyable things you find at the Narita Gion Festival you don’t find anywhere else.
Here, we will show you the unique ways to enjoy the Narita Gion Festival.
The Special Unveiling Ceremony of the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple’s Inner Shrine
While Naritasan Shinshoji Temple’s inner shrine is usually closed, it is unveiled during the special festival period.
The inner shrine is located at the back of the main hall near Naritasan Park. It is a cave-like spot where you can go in with a candle and worship the Dainichi Nyorai Buddha.
Be sure to visit as it is a precious opportunity that comes only once a year.
The recommended time to go is in the morning when it is relatively less crowded.
Many Street Vendors
The approach to the temple usually has many shops, so visitors can buy dango (sweet dumplings on a stick) and senbei (rice crackers) and eat them as they head to the temple. On top of that, many street vendors also fill the street during the festival period.
Standard street vendors sell yakisoba noodles, shaved ice, and beer here. You can also find vendors with unique Narita menus, such as unagi (eel). Just seeing what these street vendors sell is enjoyable.
So-Odori (everyone dances)
When festival floats and yatai stalls travel around the town of Narita, you can see lively musical accompaniment, festival dances, and dancers performing. The best part of the festival, though, is the So-Odori (everyone dances), with all the town’s festival floats and yatai stalls gathered.
So-Odori takes place in front of Narita Station or at the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple at important times of each day, such as when the hauling of festival floats begins.
All the drums and flutes on festival floats and yatai stalls play their tunes. It’s the climax of the festival when everyone takes turns performing dances.
Visitors should check the schedule, so they don’t miss it.
Day and Night Differences
Festival floats and yatai stalls travel around the town of Narita from morning to night for the enjoyment of visitors, but they look different when comparing day and night.
During the day, visitors can fully see the accessories and mounted dolls as they are under the sun.
When it gets dark at night, lanterns are lit on festival floats and yatai stalls. The hauling speeds up as well.
It is spectacular to see shining traditional structures charging up the approach to the temple.
See the Festival from the Second Floor
There are many restaurants along the approach to the temple, like unagi restaurants. Visitors can also see the Narita Gion Festival from the second floor of restaurants.
When you see festival floats and yatai stalls from the second floor, the height is just about the same as the roof of floats and stands. As a result, you can see the dolls mounted at the top and dancers up close.
Giving festival performers a wrapped offering hung from a stick is also a real thrill.
People relaxingly enjoy sake and food on the second floor while enjoying watching festival floats and yatai stalls when they come. These second-floor seats are very popular, and their reservation during the festival period fill up quickly.
Useful Information About the Narita Gion Festival
Here, we give you useful information to enjoy the festival even more.
A Useful Shortcut When It’s Crowded
The approach to the temple gets really crowded during the evening time.
You often get stuck in a sea of people for several tens of minutes. It would help if you took this useful shortcut when that happens.
If you want to get to the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, taking this path allows you to avoid the very crowded approach to the temple and get to the front of the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.
The reason why traffic stops at the approach to the temple is that festival floats and yatai stalls are traveling through. When the festival floats and yatai stalls are gone, you can come back to walk on the approach to the temple after things settle down.
Real-time Map of Festival Floats and Yatai Stalls
During the festival period, the festival floats and yatai floats of each neighborhood association travel around the town of Narita. You can check their locations on a real-time map.
You can see the real-time map by accessing the QR code from this URL.
You Don’t Have to Go to Enjoy The Narita Gion Festival
It is enjoyable enough just to go to The Narita Gion Festival and see festival floats and yatai stalls and enjoy food and drinks from street vendors.
With about 300 years of history, each festival float and yatai stall has different history and passions. There are also different musical accompaniment music. When you learn about the festival deeply, you will find that this traditional event is interesting in a new way.
Please look into it if you are interested.