Kumagaya Uchiwa festival

Kumagaya Uchiwa Festival is one of the Kanto (aka Greater Tokyo) area’s largest summer festivals. 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. 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. It made it return, with several restrictions, in 2022. However, in 2023 they intend to bring back the fervour of this festival once again.

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 the festival was completely downscaled between 2020 and 2022 with just the religious elements of the festival to invited guests only in both 2020 and 2021. However, they did have a surprise fireworks display on what would have been the last night of the festival. In 2022, it was on a slightly larger scale, but was missing several of the highlights.

Kumagaya Uchiwa Fan Festival

Image taken from the official website: Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri

About the Festival

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!

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. 

Kumagaya Fan Festival Schedule

The main part of the festival is on July 20th to 22nd annually, even if they are weekdays, and follows this schedule:

July 20th – they parade the mikoshi (portable shrine) from 6 am and perform three significant rituals! But the main part of the festival on the 20th is from 7 pm, when they line the festival floats up with illuminated lanterns.

July 21st – a parade of festival floats from from 5.30 pm. It usually starts from Yagihashi Department store along national route 17. After the ritual at the shrine, the 12 floats line up in the shape of a fan at the city hall main intersection.

July 22nd – the festival climaxes with a “fight off” of the 12 floats near city hall from 7 pm, followed by the procession to return the portable shrine to the main shrine from 10 pm. The main festival ends at 2 am.

Information

Drones are strictly forbidden. In 2022, they requested that you do not livestream the parade or loiter to take videos, which may have been a Covid restriction rather than festival rule.

Event: Kumagaya Uchiwa / Fan Festival 熊谷うちわ祭り

Dates: July 20th to 22nd annually

Time: all day and night! But the main festivities are:

  • 6 pm to 8 pm on the 20th
  • 1 pm to 9 pm on the 21st
  • 1 pm to 9 pm on the 22nd

Admission: free

Venue: various. Near Kumagaya Station. View on Google Maps.

Access Kumagaya Uchiwa Festival

The festival square is close to 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 on route 17 and near the intersection for Kumagaya City Hall.

There is free parking available for 250 cars. As part of the festival, particularly on the 21st and 22nd, is held on route 17, there is restrictions on traffic. They pedestrianise Route 17 for much of the day.

Summer in Saitama

For more July festivals and events in Saitama please see the 2022 summer round up. For suggestions of things to do in summer holidays, see here.

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