- 'Summer festivals'. A collective term for the numerous mainly small-scale village festivals held in the summer, ostensibly to guard crops against pests and adverse conditions. There are some major natsu-matsuri held at Kyoto shrines, notably at the Yasaka-jinja (=the Gion matsuri) on 17-24th July, the Kitano Tenmangu on 4th August and the Iwashimizu Hachimangu on 15th September. At the Kumano-nachi taisha, Wakayama, teams carrying mikoshi down from the summit of the mountain and teams carrying taimatsu torches up join in a tussle when they meet. At the Itsukushima-jinja, Miyajima, Hiroshima on the nearest Sunday to July 18th by the old lunar calendar, a kind of look-out tower of poles is erected in the sea and a hoju, a symbol of the soul (tama) or jewel derived from Taoism, distantly connected with protection against fire, is hung from it. Youths compete and cooperate with each other to raise one person high enough to reach the hoju and achieve good luck, in the festival known as tama-tori-sai 'Tama-grabbing'. The Nebuta or Neputa 'drowsiness' festival though not formally connected with Shinto or Buddhism is also widely celebrated in early August in northern Japan with huge images of kabuki actors and other intense characters, the object being to dispel summer sleepiness.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.