Step into the enchanting world of Natsu Matsuri AR at the Plaza of Montalvo Arts Center—an immersive AR art project that pays homage to the vibrant Japanese summer festival season. Drawing inspiration from the rich traditions and joyous celebrations, this installation combines physical objects, evocative soundscapes, and augmented reality to offer visitors a multisensory experience that captures the essence of Natsu Matsuri (夏祭り).

As visitors arrive at the plaza, they will be greeted by an Engawa bench—a traditional Japanese porch-like structure that beckons them to immerse themselves in the festivities. Accompanied by the gentle melodies of wind chimes, the interactive soundscape will guide visitors on a quest to discover hidden QR codes, unlocking a captivating AR world of Natsu Matsuri.

The first AR object to materialize is a giant watermelon, inspired by Akiko’s cherished memories growing up in Chiba, Japan. Reminiscent of her childhood experience, where after enjoying the cold watermelon at Engawa bench, discarded watermelon seeds grew into a flourishing fruit, this virtual watermelon embodies the excitement of witnessing nature’s magic. The garden ambience resonates with the gentle chorus of Higurashi cicadas, transporting visitors to warm summer evenings filled with nostalgia and wonder.

Following the melodious cues of a cluster of wind chimes hanging from an oak tree branch, visitors will encounter their next AR experience. Inspired by the beloved Kingyo-Sukui (金魚すくい) activity, where festival-goers try to catch goldfish with delicate paper scoops, virtual Golden Fishes will gracefully swim around visitors, radiating a sense of joy and playfulness. This AR representation captures the thrill of the festival and evokes fond memories of childhood innocence.

At the heart of the plaza, a magnificent Yagura stage awaits, serving as the focal point of Bon Odori (盆踊り) dance celebrations. The AR Yagura stage with many lanterns, accompanied by the traditional Bon Odori song and the resonating beats of taiko drums, transports visitors to the heart of a lively summer gathering. The captivating rhythm and spirited melodies invoke a sense of unity and celebration, inviting visitors to join in the joyous dance.

Within the context of “Natsu Matsuri,” the project also honors the significance of Obon—a traditional family gathering time to connect with ancestors. As visitors engage with the installations, they are invited to reflect on their heritage and the importance of familial bonds, fostering a sense of reverence and appreciation for their ancestral roots.

“Natsu Matsuri” at Montalvo Arts Center offers a captivating fusion of physical objects, immersive soundscapes, and augmented reality, immersing visitors in the vibrant tapestry of Japanese summer festivals. Through this multisensory journey, visitors are invited to celebrate the cultural richness, joy, and interconnectedness that Natsu Matsuri embodies, leaving them with a renewed appreciation for the traditions and spirit of this cherished annual event.

This work was commissioned by Montalvo Arts Center and developed in the Lucas Artists Program.

Augmented Reality Instructions

How to View the AR:

Please be sure to login to the Montalvo_Guests Wi-Fi to have internet access on the Montalvo grounds. Then, make sure your Instagram and/or Facebook app is updated to the latest version. This will ensure that you will be able to view the AR pieces in the app’s camera.

Scan the QR code on each of the signs to bring up the Instagram camera, or use the buttons below to view the three works. The AR works will appear in the camera, visible through your phone. You can interact with them, take a photo with them, and record video to share. Be sure to tag @montalvoarts and #NatsuMatsuriAR if you post your pictures and videos!


The three installations and AR components will be on view on the front lawn.