Kumagaya Uchiwa festival

Kumagaya Uchiwa Festival is one of the Kanto area’s largest summer festivals. It is open to the public from July 20th – 22nd annually, but it is actually celebrated from the 19th to the 23rd by patrons of Yasaka Shrine of Kamakura-cho. However, it was not open to the general public at all in 2020 and 2021. After three long years, it is coming back in 2022. Uchiwa means fan, as in a hand held fan used to cool down in the summer. Therefore, sometimes people call the festival Kumagaya Fan Festival in English.

Kumagaya Uchiwa Festival

In 2019, the festival was bigger and busier than ever, as it fell entirely on the long bank holiday weekend for the first time in years. Unfortunately since then the festival was completely downscaled, due to the Coronavirus. Moreover, in both 2020 and 2021, they only carried out the religious elements of the festival and it was not open to the general public. However, they did have a surprise fireworks display on what would have been the last night of the festival.

Image taken from the official website: Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri

An “uchiwa” is a type of Japanese fan, a much-needed accessory at this time of year in Japan. This festival name stems from a custom of distributing free fans in the retail district, that started around 1902. The festival floats were introduced around that time too. But the festival itself has been celebrated since 1750. Supposedly before the fans, there was a tradition of giving out “sekihan” red rice in the area. The Kumagaya Uchiwa festival attracts about 750,000 people making it one of the biggest festivals in the month of July. In a normal year, there are over 300 festival stalls, Summer Walker claims 700!

About the Festival

Kumagaya was one of the host cities for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Thanks to that a lot of information about Kumagaya became available in English online. Including this piece about the fan festival:

“Uchiwa Matsuri (fan festival)” held in a city area of Kumagaya City is a Gion Festival referred to as No. 1 in Kanto region. It will be held for three days from July 20th to 22nd, and twelve Japanese festival cars will parade in the city area while playing ohayashi (festival music). It is one of the biggest events in Kumagaya City along with Sakura Festival and Display of Fireworks, and a large number of visitors come to Kumagaya City to see it. Source: Kumagaya Uchiwa Festival English Website 

The English website is detailed and comprehensive with details of the events each day: official website. 

Schedule

July 20th – the mikoshi (portable shrines) are paraded from 6 am! According to Kumagaya city website, on the 20th the festival floats will not ‘compete’ (hatsu tatakai) with each other, so presumably they will just be on display without the usual parading.

July 21st – a parade of festival floats from 1 to 4 pm (shorter than usual due to the pandemic). It usually starts from Yagihashi Department store along national route 17.

July 22nd – from 10 am. Mikoshi in the early afternoon, “hikkawase tatakai” in the afternoon. Please note they are restricting access to the festival square to invitees only. Presumably you can watch the ‘fighting’ of the festival floats from outside the festival square.

Restrictions

They request that you do not line up on the road to watch the parade. Also, drones are strictly forbidden. In addition, they request that you do not livestream the parade or loiter to take videos.

Access Kumagaya Uchiwa Festival

The festival square is a five minute walk from JR Kumagaya Station on the Takasaki Line. There is also a Chichibu Tetsudo Kumagaya station from where the famed Paleo Express steam locomotive goes. The festival is also carried out on route 17.

Free parking is available for 250 cars. As part of the festival, particularly on the 21st, is held on route 17, there is restrictions on traffic. Route 17 is pedestrianized for much of the day.

Summer in Saitama

For more summer festivals and events in Saitama please see the 2022 summer round up. You will also find even more events in the events category. If you are in Kumagaya be sure to check out the award winning Onsen (Hot Spring) Cafe Bivouac:

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