Festivals & Events in Japan

Festivals & Events in Japan. Japan’s festivals range from celebrations of music, flowers, phalluses and fire and its events showcase the best in food, automobiles and technology.

Festivals—known locally as matsuri—are deeply embedded into Japanese culture and range from the small and peaceful to the large and fiery.

Traditional festivals often revolve around shrines and temples and during the summer, expect to see parades through the streets with all those taking part dressed in colorful garb, hoisting heavy portable shrines on their shoulders.

Kamakura Matsuri

Festivals & Events in Japan
Kamakura Matsuri

Celebrate Kamakura and the samurai spirit. With dancing, archery and even a tragic love story, the Kamakura Festival celebrates highlights of the town's history and samurai lore.

Chichibu Night Festival

Festivals & Events in Japan
Chichibu Night Festival

A winter night spectacle featuring multi-ton floats, music and sweet sake. Saitama Prefecture's Chichibu Yomatsuri—a night festival dating back at least 300 years that is held on December 2 and 3 each year—is one of the Kanto area's most spectacular events.

The festival draws a lively crowd of revelers to watch as massive, ornately designed floats weighing between 10 and 20 tons are pulled through Chichibu's main avenue to drum and flute music.

The locals top that feat on the second day by pulling the floats up a hill as the crowd exhorts them while drinking hot, sweet rice wine and eating local specialties.

Gion Matsuri

Festivals & Events in Japan
Gion Matsuri

Kyoto's hottest summer celebration is Japan's biggest cultural block party. The Gion Matsuri dominates the festival calendar in Japan. It's the country's biggest festival, has been held every year since 869, and turns the city into a huge block party, especially during the two periods in mid-July when the giant floats are displayed and then pulled through the streets.

Locals and visitors alike feast and drink late into the night during the three-day runups to the parades of spectacular multi-ton floats. Locals celebrate Kyoto's culture and wealth by showing off their possessions during the related Byobu Matsuri.

Miyako Odori

Festivals & Events in Japan
Miyako Odori

Geiko and maiko dancing to music in timeless splendor. The Miyako Odori, which translates literally as "Capital City Dances" and refers to Kyoto's former status as the nation's capital, is a "can't miss" annual show featuring geiko—Kyoto geisha prefer this term, which means "arts child"—and maiko apprentices dancing in their finest garb.

Each of the five geisha districts or kagai in Kyoto hold several performances every day during the month of April in their respective theaters. The Miyako Odori is a highlight of Kyoto’s annual event calendar.

Morioka Autumn Festival

Festivals & Events in Japan
Morioka Autumn Festival

An action-packed festival with massive floats and mounted archers. Over the past 300 years, the Morioka Aki Matsuri in Iwate has evolved into a cultural, aural and visual delight. Held every September, the four-day festival is free to attend. If you're the adventurous type, join in the chanting as the floats are pulled along the streets of Morioka to the sounds of taiko drums and flutes.

Aomori Nebuta Festival

Festivals & Events in Japan
Aomori Nebuta Festival

Brightly lit warrior floats are spectacular. The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is a summer festival held every August 2-7 that is considered one of the greatest events in all of Tohoku. The giant papier-mache dolls are incredible, which is why more than 3 million people come to visit each year.

Karatsu Kunchi

Festivals & Events in Japan
Karatsu Kunchi

Massive floats in the form of creatures mythical and otherwise. Karatsu in Saga Prefecture has been holding an autumn festival to celebrate bountiful harvests for over 400 years.

The Karatsu Kunchi Festival is a massive three-day parade at the beginning of November featuring huge floats known as hikiyama being pulled through town and eventually from Karatsu Shrine to Nishino Beach.

The floats include a killer whale and the legendary Urashima Taro—a fisherman who was Japan's version of Rip Van Winkle.

Fuji Rock Festival

Festivals & Events in Japan
Fuji Rock Festival

Music in the mountains at Japan's premier music festival. Fuji Rock Festival, an annual three-day event held at Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture, is Japan's biggest and best rock music festival. Featuring more than 200 Japanese and international musicians, the annual event attracts music lovers and festival-goers from across the country and around the world.

Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination

Festivals & Events in Japan
Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination

Majestic Lighttime Illuminations in a Picturesque Setting Through Winter and Beyond. In Japan, the competition to produce the best winter illuminations is a fierce one, and the gardens at Nabana-no-Sato are certainly a contender for the top prize. If you happen to be in the Nagoya area or Mie Prefecture between mid-October and early May (i.e. more than half the year), a visit to see this stunning extravaganza of flowers and radiance will be a rewarding one.

Kumano Fireworks Festival

Festivals & Events in Japan
Kumano Fireworks Festival

Sit along the water and take in a show of flashing light and booming sound. If you decide to seek out the hidden gems way out here in the southern part of Mie Prefecture, hopefully you can come in mid-August to catch a brilliant fireworks display that will take your breath away.

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

Festivals & Events in Japan
Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

The Most Thrilling Festival in Japan. A procession of 100-plus men rush down the street, pushing and pulling immaculately handcrafted danjiri floats that wobble around, careening around the narrow corners. Caught up in the throes of excitement, a man stands on top of the float, shouting enthusiastically as he bounces back and forth. It’s all very dangerous, but 300 years of tradition takes precedent over safety concerns.

The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is hands-down the largest and most extravagant danjiri float festival in Japan, boasting 35 separate floats and attracting 500,000 visitors each year. Held in mid-September, the event is an essential stop during your travels if you’re lucky enough to be in the area at that time.

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