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Festivals in Japan

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Festivals in Japan

Festivals are often based around a specific event, with entertainment, food stalls, and carnival games. Some are based around temples or shrines, others include hanabi (fireworks). There are a variety of numerous local festivals (matsuri) in Japan because almost every shrine celebrates one of its own.

Most festivals are held annually and celebrate seasonal holidays, historical events, or a shrine's deity. Some festivals hold celebrations over a period of several days. An important element of Japanese festivals are parades in which the local shrine's kami (Shinto deity) is carried through the town in a mikoshi (a divine palanquin). This may include elaborate floats, accompanied by flute and drum music by the people sitting on the floats. It is the only time of the year when the kami leaves the shrine.

These processions are usually organized at the neighborhood level. While in the area, one can always find matsuri booths selling food, such as takoyaki, games, such as Goldfish scooping, and souvenirs. Sumo matches, karaoke contests, and other forms of entertainment are often organized in conjunction with matsuri. If the festival is next to a lake, renting a boat is also a featured attraction.

photo of Festivals in Japan

Best Festivals of Japan

photo of Dosojin Matsuri

Chubu | Nagano | Nozawa Onsen

Dosojin Matsuri

Dosojin Matsuri is one of the three biggest fire festivals in Japan and is annually held on January 15.

photo of Atami Plum Garden Festival

Chubu | Shizuoka | Izu Peninsula

Atami Plum Garden Festival

The Atami Plum Garden Festival is annually held from mid- January to early March with thousands of visitors attending the festivities.

photo of Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival

Hokkaido | Lake Shikotsu

Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival

Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival starts at the end of January and lasts all the way to mid-February.

photo of Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival

Chubu | Shizuoka | Izu Peninsula

Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival

The Kawazu Cherry Blossom attracts more than 1.5 million visitors, who attend the annual festival.

photo of Asahikawa Winter Festival

Hokkaido | Asahikawa

Asahikawa Winter Festival

Second largest snow festival in Hokkaido; famous for having the largest snow sculptures.

photo of Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival

Tohoku | Akita | Yokote

Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival

Yokote Kamakura Festival has been around for over 400 years. It is a way to honor the water deities and pray for a bountiful harvest.

photo of Sapporo Snow Festival

Hokkaido | Sapporo

Sapporo Snow Festival

For one week in February in Hokkaido’s capital, the Sapporo Snow Festival is held.

photo of Omizutori

Kansai | Nara | Nara City

Omizutori

Omizutori is a one of the oldest traditional Japanese Buddhism Festival that takes place each year in Nara.

photo of Takayama Sanno Spring Festival

Chubu | Gifu | Takayama

Takayama Sanno Spring Festival

The Takayama Festival known as one of Japan’s three most popular festivals and is held twice a year in the spring and autumn.

photo of Matsumae Park Cherry Blossom Festival

Hokkaido | Matsumae

Matsumae Park Cherry Blossom Festival

Most popular cherry blossom viewing spot in Hokkaido with over ten thousand cherry trees.

photo of Ho-Taiko Hanami Gyoretsu

Kansai | Kyoto | Kyoto City

Ho-Taiko Hanami Gyoretsu

Ho-Taiko Hanami Gyoretsu" (Toyotomi Hideyoshi's cherry blossom-viewing parade) is held on the second Sunday of every April.

May

photo of Hakata Dontaku Festival

Kyushu | Fukuoka | Fukuoka City

Hakata Dontaku Festival

This colorful festival takes place on May 3 and 4 in the city of Fukuoka in northern Kyushu.

photo of Aoi Matsuri

Kansai | Kyoto | Kyoto City

Aoi Matsuri

The Kyoto Aoi Festival is one of the most famous festivals in the city. It is annually held on May 15 and is the festival of the two Kamo Shrines.

photo of Asakusa Sanja Matsuri

Kanto | Tokyo | Northern Tokyo

Asakusa Sanja Matsuri

The Sanja Matsuri, a symbolic festival of Tokyo, is one of the largest festivals of mikoshi (portable shrines) held in Asakusa.

photo of Kanda Matsuri

Kanto | Tokyo | Central Tokyo

Kanda Matsuri

100 portable shrines gather for this festival and a procession of 300 people parades through the streets of Tokyo.

photo of Sanno Matsuri

Kanto | Tokyo | Central Tokyo

Sanno Matsuri

A procession of 300 people dressed in ancient costumes parades through the heart of Tokyo.

photo of Gion Matsuri

Kansai | Kyoto | Kyoto City

Gion Matsuri

The Gion Festival is Kyoto’s largest annual festival. It is a celebration that lasts for the whole month of July with different events happening.

photo of Tenjin Matsuri

Kansai | Osaka | Osaka City

Tenjin Matsuri

Tenjin Matsuri is one of the top three festivals in Japan along with Gion Matsuri and Kanda Matsuri.

photo of Hakata Gion Yamakasa

Kyushu | Fukuoka | Fukuoka City

Hakata Gion Yamakasa

A festival filled with dance and float racing in Kyuzhu.

photo of Kanto Matsuri

Tohoku | Akita | Akita

Kanto Matsuri

The Kanto Matsuri is one of the three great festivals in the Tohoku region and it is an event about praying for a bountiful harvest.

photo of Sendai Tanabata Matsuri

Tohoku | Miyagi | Sendai

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri is one of the Three Great Summer Festivals in Tohoku and draws a couple of million people to the event.

photo of Awa Odori

Shikoku | Tokushima | Tokushima City

Awa Odori

One of the largest dance festivals in Japan celebrated in Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku Island.

photo of Nebuta Matsuri

Tohoku | Aomori | Aomori

Nebuta Matsuri

Nebuta matsuri is a large papier mache lantern float parade in Aomori and is one of the three largest festivals in the Tohoku region.

photo of Earth Celebration

Chubu | Niigata | Sado Island

Earth Celebration

The Earth Celebration is an annual music festival held by the famous Kodo Taiko Group, who is based on Sado Island.

photo of Nagasaki Kunchi

Kyushu | Nagasaki | Nagasaki

Nagasaki Kunchi

A 400 year old festival heavily influenced with Dutch, Chinese and Portugal cultures.

photo of Takayama Hachiman Autumn Festival

Chubu | Gifu | Takayama

Takayama Hachiman Autumn Festival

The Takayama Festival known as one of Japan’s three most popular festivals and is held twice a year in the spring and autumn.

photo of Jidai Matsuri

Kansai | Kyoto | Kyoto City

Jidai Matsuri

The Jidai Matsuri celebrates the founding of Kyoto and is held every year on October 22.

photo of Chichibu Yomatsuri

Kanto | Saitama | Chichibu

Chichibu Yomatsuri

Chichibu Yomatsuri is one of the top three float related festivals in Japan.