Tokyo’s Samba Carnival in Asakusa and the Awaodori Festival in Koenji are amazing spectacles, but they’re also horribly crowded. If you don’t want to be straining to peer over people’s heads, you have to be there at least an hour before things start.
If you don’t mind seeing things on a slightly smaller scale, you can see pretty much the same thing a few weeks before in a setting where the crowds are much, much thinner.
During the Nagashi Odori part of the festival, which is based on part of the Awaodori Festival, you can pretty much walk around wherever you want. The event gets a little more crowded when the samba dancers come, but it’s nothing compared to the big Tokyo festivals.
I was a little worried the grannies were going to strip off their yukata to reveal sexy samba outfits. Luckily, there seems to be no overlap between the participants in the two events.
The Tatara Matsuri is held on the first weekend in August. The dancing is on Saturday, and then there is a fireworks display on Sunday night. The nagashi-odori starts at 5:00 and the samba is from 6:10. The fireworks on Sunday are from 7:45 to 8:30. The dancing is within walking distance from Kawaguchi Station, but the fireworks are held at the Kawaguchi Autoracing Track. There’s a free shuttle bus. Check out the festival’s website at: http://www.cablenet.ne.jp/~tatara/index.html
(Japanese only) for more information.