The most prominent festival in Nagasaki, and one of the most well known in Japan (as my professors say), is the O-kunchi festival. Similar to parades and stuff in the U.S., this festival is recorded live on national Japanese television. The festival consists of different main events and multiple smaller events that occur all over Nagasaki, and are put on by its 7 towns. There is also a *very* extensive web of shops and tents that sell food, have games, etc. I was not able to see any of the main events, but I did see some of the smaller private shows. The festival is reliant on private donations (usually businesses) to function, and the performers walk around the city putting on private performances in front of the places that donated money. They also do impromptu performances at unscheduled locations for tourists and such.
The main shows are very lavish and very expensive. My history professor here was the first non-Japanese ever to perform in his town's performance. The kimonos worn by the performers are worn for only one day, and then they are burned. His kimono cost around $3000, so that's $9000 for the three days for one person. He says the kimonos for the dancers can cost upwards of $40,000 each. The O-kunchi festival is a multinational festival, with performances relative to a variety of cultures. There is a Chinese dragon dance, for example. One specific perfomance involves a Dutch trading ship, and the event parodies the Dutch style (clothes, etc.). The event my professor was in last year involves a giant whale constructed of wood. It weighed about 2 tons + all the water inside + the weight of the guy inside pumping the water out of the top. This giant wooden whale is spun around by a crew of men who also carry it up and down steep hills and hundreds of stairs all day, for three days. The level of endurance required for that seems staggering.