1. Ichihasama Lily Garden (一迫ゆり園)
June 21–July 25
The Ichihasama Lily Garden's wooded surroundings make its imaginative landscaping appear almost fairytale-like. This is the time of year when the garden is at its best, with lilies in full bloom.
Admission: Adults 670 yen, children 310 yen
Access: 70 minutes by bus from Sendai Station, followed by a 15-minute walk. From Bus Stop 32, board bus highway bus bound for Ichihasama Sogo Shisho-mae (一迫総合支所前). Alight at Ishihasama Sogo Shisho-mae. See timetable here.
2. Hydrangeas at Shifukuji Temple (資福寺のあじさい)
June 25–July 10
This quaint temple in Sendai's Kitayama neighborhood is typically a quiet, seldom visited spot. Come the end of June, in-the-know locals flock here to enjoy the large hydrangea bushes in bloom. Particularly at this time of year, the temple grounds at are said to look like "heaven's doorstep."
Time: Always open
Access: By subway: 15-min. walk from Kita-Sendai Station.
3. Michinoku Hydrangea Festival (みちのくあじさいまつり)
June 29–July 28
The Michinoku Hydrangea Garden is said to be Japan's best, with the garden forming the underbrush of a cedar forest. A two-kilometer long walking trail winds through the forest, along which visitors can see around 30,000 hydrangea in about 300 different varieties.
Admission: Adults 1,000 yen, children 200 yen
Access: About 30 minutes by bus from Ichinoseki Station (一関駅), followed by a 15-minute walk.
From the Nishiguchi Bus Pool Stop 7, board a Geibikei Line (猊鼻渓線) bus. Alight at Mizukami (水上).
4. Osaki Hachimangu Chinowa & Takekazari (大崎八幡宮の茅の輪と竹飾）
End of June–August 8
July, sandwiched between oharae-shiki at the end of June and Tanabata at the beginning of August, sees a melding of seasonal Japanese traditions. At Osaki Hachimangu Shrine, visitors have the opportunity to view the stately chinowa purification ring from oharae-shiki together with the colorful, fluttering takekazari decorations hung in anticipation of Tanabata. In addition to viewing the decorations, visitors are also welcome to take part in either or both of the rituals associated with them: a self-guided figure-eight walk through the chinowa for purification, then on to the takekazari bamboo, where hanging a streamer with a wish inscribed on it is said to help the wish come true.
Hours: Always open
Access by rail: A 15-min. walk from Kunimi or Tohoku Fukushi Daigaku-mae Stations
Access by bus: From Sendai Station bus stops #10 or #15, board a bus bound for Jogi (定義), Sakunami Onsen (作並温泉), Shirozawa Shako (白沢車庫), Imozawa (芋沢), Osawa・Aonoki (大沢・青野木), Moniwa (茂庭), Saikaen (西花苑), Minamiyoshinari Danchi (南吉成団地), or Kunimigaoka (国見ヶ丘). Alight at Osaki Hachimangu-mae (大崎八幡宮前) bus stop. Search for timetables here.
5. Holy Salt-Making Ritual・Okama Shrine Reisai (藻塩焼神事・御釜神社例祭)
Designated an Intangible Cultural Property by Miyagi Prefecture, this unusual ritual has been practiced for more than 1,000 years. It takes place at the Okama-Jinja Shrine to honor Shiotsuchi Oji no Kami the god said to have taught humans how to make salt. July 4 is the seaweed-harvesting ritual, and July 5 is the water collecting ritual. The main event takes place on July 6, when the water is boiled down to make holy salt.
Access: 15-minute walk from Hon-Shiogama Station
6. Iizaka Onsen Horoyoi Walk (飯坂温泉ほろ酔いウオーク)
Fukushima City, Fukushima
Iizaka Onsen's festival-like answer to a pub crawl. The 4,000 yen fee buys participants a set of tickets to be exchanged for food and drinks at 5 shops along the Horoyoi Walk route. Those who complete the circuit and reach the finish line will be entered in a lottery for prizes. Energetic music and dance performances will take place along the route, cheering on tipsy revelers as they stumble towards the finish line.
Tickets: 4,000 yen at the door
Access: Around Iizaka Onsen Station area
7. Sendai Yokocho Fes (仙臺横丁フェス)
A festival dedicated to showcasing the delicious food and drink that can be found tucked away in Sendai's old-fashioned backstreets. Food stalls operated by restaurants located in the Iroha Yokocho, Sendai Asakusa, and other such areas will serve up a variety of quality food and drink representative of these charming backstreets. In addition, wineries and breweries from Hokkaido and Iwate will also have stalls set up, serving their signature tipples.
Hours: July 5 16:00–21:00, July 6 11:00–21:00, July 7 11:00–19:00
Access: Next to Kotodaikoen Station
8. Jogi Firefly Festival (定義ホタル祭り)
July 6 (festival), July 1–15 (firefly viewing)
Jogi area, Sendai
Fireflies are one of summer's most charming natural phenomenon. The Jogi area, a small community tucked away deep in the mountains of Sendai, is centered on the revered Jogi Nyorai temple. In that hallowed and mysterious atmosphere, the glow of fireflies at night takes on a touch of the divine.
The night of the Firefly Festival will also feature live performances such as hula dancing and ocarina playing. Food stalls will be set up, selling classic Japanese festival fare—yakitori, yakisoba, and the like.
Hours: Festival 17:00–20:30, firefly viewing any time after dark
9. Kurashi no Ichi Market (暮らしの市)
A short train ride from Sendai Station brings you to Shiogama, home to the large indoor Kurashi no Ichi craft and food market. The market boasts handmade goods sold by the artisans themselves, including pottery, ceramics, jewelry, desserts, breads, and more!
Access: 10-minute walk from Hon-Shiogama Station
10. Tomiya Blueberry Sweets Fair (とみやブルーベリースイーツフェア)
Tomiya blueberries have recently begun garnering international praise, so much that Tomiya blueberry juice was even served at the 2016 G7 Summit in Ise! During blueberry season, 12 local sweets shops break out their best seasonal dessert recipes. No reservations needed—simply drop by any of the participating sweets shops and pick out whatever you like.
Time: Varies by shop
Location: Throughout Tomiya City, see Details link for shop list
Access: By bus from Izumi-Chuo Station
11. Blueberry picking (ブルーベリー狩り) at Zao Blueberry Farm
July 6 to mid-August
July is peak blueberry season in Miyagi, and the best way to enjoy them at their freshest and ripest is to pluck them straight off the bush yourself! There are a number of blueberry farms throughout Miyagi which offer blueberry picking, but most require advance reservations. The Zao Blueberry Farm doesn't require reservations, making it a great spot for a spontaneous day trip. In addition, the farm grows over 60 varieties of blueberries to choose from. Blueberry-picking experiences here are all-you-can-eat style: spend 45 minutes in the field picking and eating as many blueberries as you like. The picking experiences themselves don't allow participants to take home any berries, but freshly picked to-go berries are for sale at the farm's rest house.
Admission: Free (45-minute all-you-can-eat blueberry picking session is 1,000 yen adults, 700 yen children.)
12. Wa Cocktail Making Workshop (和カクテル体験)
The July installment of i-Sendai's English-friendly cocktail workshop, which teaches participants how mix their own Japanese-style cocktails incorporating seasonal and traditional Japanese ingredients. The July cocktail is a Japanese twist on the tart and refreshing salty dog, incorporating rice shochu. Participants will learn proper mixing technique from master bartender Matsuo-san of Signature D, then try their hand at mixing their own.
Reservations: Required at least 2 days in advance (by 17:00 on July 5). Can book online in English via Details link below.
Tickets: 3,710 yen
Access: 8-min. walk from Omachi Nishi-Koen Station (Sendai Subway Tozai Line)
13. Yamagata Benibana Festival (山形紅花まつり)
Yamagata City, Yamagata
Benibana, known to English speakers as safflower, was once an important and expensive commodity in Japan. Kyoto geisha once painted their lips with it, and nobles would wear kimono dyed with benibana. Yamagata flourished as one of the main cultivation areas for the flower. Though the economical importance of the benibana trade has faded, the flower and its uses are still celebrated annually at several local festivals around Yamagata. The Yamagata Benibana Festival is one of the most easily accessible from Sendai. Highlights include benibana picking and fabric-dyeing workshops, and opportunities to dress up in traditional benibana-picking garb and pose for photos.
Hours: July 13 10:00–17:00, July 14 10:00–15:00
Location: Takase Benibana Fureai Center (高瀬紅花ふれあいセンター)
14. Kesennuma Katsuo Matsuri (気仙沼かつお祭り)
Kesennuma Port boasts the largest katsuo catch in all of Japan. It celebrates this distinction each year with the Katsuo Matsuri. Most would say the highlights of the event are the generous giveaways of katsuo-driven foods—sushi, sashimi, harasuyaki, and the like. Free food aside, the other attractions here will also satisfy your inner gourmand: fresh catch sales, special menus at local restaurants, and more!
Hours: from 8:00 until whenever product runs out
Access from Minami-Kesennuma Station: 18-minute walk to Umi no Ichi, 24-minute walk to Osakana no Ichiba, 10 minute walk to Sakana no Eki.
15. Kabutomushi no Mori (カブトムシの森)
Jogi area, Sendai
Giant kabutomushi beetles are either a highlight or horror of summer, depending on how squeamish you are about bugs. Come get up close and personal with some at the Kabutomushi no Mori, which offers visitors the chance to play with the bugs: pick them up, put them on your arm, whatever you like! The surrounding nature is also a great place to observe the beetles in the wild, and visitors are invited to do so at their leisure with a stroll through the nearby woods.
16. Shiogama Port Festival (塩竈みなと祭）
One of Japan's 3 Great Boat Festivals. On July 14, the night sky will be lit up with a large fireworks display. The main event takes place on Marine Day (July 15), beginning early in the morning when worshippers parade a mikoshi (portable shrine) through the streets of town. Towards afternoon, the festivities take to the sea with a boat parade featuring opulent ceremonial dragon and phoenix boats.
Time: July 14 20:00–21:00, July 15 10:30–18:15
Admission: Free (paid reserved seating for fireworks show available)
Location: Throughout central Shiogama, main location Marine Gate Shiogama (マリンゲート塩釜)
17. Flamenco Live in Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Seishi (フラメンコライブ in 中本誠司現代美術館)
Aoba Ward, Sendai
Time: Doors open 16:30, event starts 17:00
Admission*: 3,000 yen (includes 1 drink)
*Reservations required, please call 022-272-7100 (Japanese language only).
Access: 30 min. by bus from Sendai Station.
From Sendai Station West Bus Pool Stop 2, board bus bound for Miyagi Daigaku・Sendai Kenfukushi Senmon Gakko (宮城大学・仙台健福祉専門学校) or Teraoka Rokuchome・Outlet (寺岡六丁目・アウトレット) via Kencho Shiyakusho・Kamisugi Dori・Miyagi Gakuin・Outlet (県庁市役所・上杉通・宮城学院・アウトレット). Alight at Higashi Katsuyama Chuo (東勝山中央). Museum is a 5-min. walk from bus stop. Bus details here.
18. Harvest: a Satoshi Okabe solo exhibition (オカベサトシ展 -ハーヴェスト-）
A coffee-themed solo exhibition from local illustrator and wire craft artist Saitoshi Okabe. Seeing as the venue is Iwanuma's indie roaster cafe-cum-gallery Epic View, you'll be able simultaneously to fuel and satisfy any coffee cravings.
Time: Tues–Sat 10:00–16:30, 17:30–20:30, Sun 10:00–15:00, Closed Mondays
Access: 8-min. walk from Iwanuma Station.
19. BeerFes Fukushima (ビールフェスふくしま)
Fukushima City, Fukushima
An outdoor beer festival conveniently located just across the street from Fukushima Station, featuring Japanese and import craft beer. There will be live musical entertainment, and July 21 is Yukata Night--rental yukata will be available, and a "yukata style" competition will be held.
Location: Nakago Twin Hiroba (中合ツイン広場)
Access: 2-min. walk from Fukushima Station
20. Sendai Countryside Cycling Tour (田園風景を楽しむバイリンガルサイクリング体験会)
July 20 (& the third Saturday of of every month June–October)
Izumi Ward, Sendai
Take a break from the city and enjoy the refreshing breeze as you cycle through Sendai's countryside. This 25-kilometer ride will lead participants through a landscape of rice paddies and bamboo groves in the rural outskirts of Izumi Ward.
The event is safe and fun for a wide range of skill levels. Cycle and gear rental are included, and riders will be accompanied by an English-speaking guide to ensure a worry-free adventure.
Time: All day
Reservations: Required. Can book online in English (see Details link).
Tickets: 5,000 yen (includes sport cycle & helmet rental)
Access: 40 minutes by bus from Sendai Station. From the Sendai Station Nishiguchi Bus Terminal Stop 2, board bus bound for Izumi Park Town (泉パークタウン) or Miyagi Daigaku (宮城大学). Alight at Teraoka Rokuchome・Izumi Outlet (寺岡六丁目・泉アウトレット) bus stop. Hotel is a short walk from bus stop. English bus info here (link is for Izumi outlet mall, but access info is the same for both as the hotel is next door).
21. Yamamoto Sunflower Festival (やまもとひまわり祭り)
Fields of sunflowers are a quintessential summer landscape. Enjoy 8.3 hectares of them at your leisure during the Yamamoto Sunflower Festival. Guests can freely not only stroll the field, but also pick the flowers freely! The sunflower field itself doesn't have much going on in the way of food stalls, so visitors looking to eat or shop are recommended to stop by nearby Yamamoto Ichigo no Sato (やまもと夢いちごの郷).
Access: 30-minute walk from Yamashita Station
22. Sendai Comiket #253 Tanabata Festival (仙台コミケ253七夕まつり)
Miyagino Ward, Sendai
Sendai Comiket is a series of gatherings celebrating all genres of anime, manga, and video games through cosplay, fan fiction, and more. Their July gathering is Tanabata-themed—enjoy a pop-culture twist on tradition at this event!
Admission: TBD (purchase day of at event site)
Location: Yume Messe Miyagi (夢メッセみやぎ)
Access: 15-min. walk from Nakano-Sakae Station (Senseki Line)
23. Fujin x Raijin Dance & Drum Performance at Zuiganji Temple (風人雷人in 松島瑞巌寺)
Join contemporary dancer Atsushi and taiko drummer Nakamura Tatsuya for a lively and otherworldly Fujin Raijin (wind god, thunder god) performance at Matsushima's Zuiganji Temple, a National Treasure. Atsushi is known for his time with the nationally-famous rock band Dragon Ash.
Time: Doors open 18:00, start is 18:30
Tickets: 3000 yen. Purchase at Pia (チケットぴあ), Lawson Tickets (ローソンチケット), E+, or Ticket GIP (チケットＧＩＰ)
Access: 10-min. walk from Matsushimakaigan Station
24. Fukushima Fireworks Festival (ふくしま花火大会)
Fukushima City, Fukushima
Features over 10,000 fireworks! A huge fireworks festival with relatively small crowds.
Access: Fireworks launch point is a 35-minute walk from Oroshimachi Station (Abukuma Express Line), though of course you don't need to go all the way there to see the fireworks.
25. Summer Festival Sparrow Dance (夏まつり仙台すずめ踊り)
Festival dedicated to suzume odori (sparrow dance), the traditional dance of Sendai. Features nonstop suzume odori parades and stage performances all weekend long, plus musical performances by local musicians, and a visit from Anpanman himself!
Location: Miyagino Dori Avenue (宮城野通)
Access: Across the street from the East entrance of Sendai Station
26. Kurikoma Float Festival (くりこま山車まつり)
A traditional festival that has been passed down since the Edo period. Large decorative floats are paraded through the streets to wish for a good harvest. The parade continues into the night, with traditional dancing and music accompanying the floats.
Time: 14:30–21:00 (July 27), 9:00–17:15 (July 28)
Access: About 40 minutes by bus from Ishikoshi Station. Board bus bound for Hosokura Aramachi (細倉荒町), alight at Muikamachi (六日町). IMPORTANT: The last return bus on weekends departs at 17:05.
27. Soma Nomaoi (相馬野馬追)
An event with 1,000 years of history! This horse-centric festival celebrates the traditional equestrian culture of the area, particularly its horseback-riding samurai. Highlights include a parade of armor-clad samurai, horse races, a capture-the-flag-like field battle, and a literal wild horse chase!
Time: 8:30–5:30 (July 27), 4:00–19:30 (July 28), 9:00–11:30 (July 29)
Access: By complimentary shuttle bus from Haranomachi Station
28. Ishinomaki Kawabiraki (石巻川開祭り)
July 31–August 1
"Kawabiraki" means "to open a river." Historically, the Ishinomaki Kawabiraki Festival began as a festival expressing gratitude to the military commander led the excavation of the Kitakami River. In the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the festival transformed into a celebration of the city's history and its ongoing recovery efforts. With festivities including memorial services, parades, and fireworks, the Kawabiraki Festival is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the culture of this coastal town while learning about the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Time: 8:00–20:30 (July 31), 9:00–13:15 (August 1)
Access: A short walk from Ishinomaki Station.