For three days in July, for the last 300 years, the people of Narita and surrounding towns have gathered in the plaza in front of Shinshoji Temple in Narita to celebrate summer planting and ask for blessings from the Buddha Dainichi Nyorai. This festival is of course solemn in parts, but exuberant and boisterous day and night.
The festival begins after midday on the first day with a blessing ceremony and a rally of the festival float bearers before they parade around the city. The festival floats are spectacular - exquisite woodwork, sumptuous draperies, and a company of musicians, bearers, and dancers in colorful costumes accompanies each. The festival continues into the evenings, with lights on the floats and participants bearing lanterns. Each day has traditional dance and processions.
Be careful not to get crushed by the floats in the steep and narrow streets of Narita, and make way when you hear the chants and drums. If you need a breather, retreat to Naritasan Park where the fountains and ponds are tranquil and cool.
During the festival street food is abundant. If you prefer a proper meal, don’t miss the local specialty, grilled eel, served in many shops and best represented by Kawatoyo, a popular restaurant on the main road.
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You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big city centers and tourist destinations. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too.