Festivals & Events Overview

Enjoy the Unique Festivals of Japan

Image of a Mikoshi
Photo:Mikoshi

Various festivals and events are held throughout the year in Japan, and it is said that there are between 100,000 and 300,000 "matsuri" (festivals) held annually.

Summer festivals are popular with visitors from all over the world. These festivals often involve pulling delicately carved floats or carrying portable shrines through town and enjoying the rhythmic chants of the shrine bearers and the musical accompaniment played on top of the floats.
Not all festivals have floats and mikoshi (portable shrines), so if you want to visit a summer festival to see them, be sure to check in advance.

The origins and history of Japanese festivals are ancient, and they were originally a way to offer thanks to the gods and a way for people to pray and make their voices heard.
Each festival has its own meaning, whether it be praying for a good harvest, thanking the gods for the harvest, fighting off disease, warding off insects and typhoons, celebrating the New Year, or promoting the town.
Many Japanese festivals are traditional and local, and are very popular among both Japanese citizens and visitors to Japan.

Famous and Popular Festivals in Japan

Some of the major festivals throughout Japan are as follows:

・Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo, Hokkaido, mid-February)
・Sanja Festival (Taito, Tokyo, 3rd Friday to Sunday in May)
・Gion Festival (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, Jul. 1-31)
・Tenjin Festival (Kita, Osaka City, Osaka, Jul. 24-25)
・Awa Dance Festival (Tokushima City, Tokushima Prefecture, Aug. 12-15)
・Aomori Nebuta Festival (Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture, Aug. 2-7)
・Nagasaki Kunchi (Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture, Oct. 7-9)
・Chichibu Night Festival (Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture, Dec. 2-3)
・Okinawa Zento Eisa Festival (Okinawa, August)
・Sendai Tanabata Festival (Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Aug. 6-8)
・Yamagata Hanagasa Festival (Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, August 5-7)
・Yosakoi Festival (Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture, Aug. 9-12)
・Kaze no Bon Festival (Yatsuo, Toyama City, Toyama Prefecture, Sept. 1-3)
・Namahage (Oga City, Akita Prefecture, Dec. 31)
・Naritasan Shinshoji Temple's Setsubun (Narita City, Chiba Prefecture, Feb. 3)
・Kanda Festival (Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, the second Sunday in May of odd-numbered years)
・Gozan no Okuribi ( Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, Aug. 16)
・Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri (Kishiwada, Osaka, Saturday through Sunday before Respect-for-the-Aged Day in September)
・Hakata Gion Yamakasa (Hakata, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka, Jul. 1-15)
・Spirit Boat Procession (Shoro Nagashi) (Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture, Aug. 15)

Among these, the Gion Festival at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto, the Tenjin Festival at Osaka Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka, and the Kanda Festival at Kanda Myojin in Tokyo are the three major festivals of Japan. They are registered as Intangible Cultural Properties by UNESCO, and are particularly popular among foreign tourists.
The Gion Festival in Kyoto, famous as a tourist attraction for visitors to Japan, is a very historical festival held in July every year since 869 in the Heian period, more than 1100 years ago.

Japanese Festivals for Foreign Visitors to Japan

Image of the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival
Photo:Nagaoka Fireworks Festival

Many international tourists visiting Japan line up their schedules with these festivals.
The largest number of visitors to Japan is in July, and this is due to the fact that many foreign tourists come to Japan for the summer festivals.
There are three main attractions for foreign visitors to Japan, namely the powerful, large-scale Aomori Nebuta Festival and the beautiful Sapporo Snow Festival.

Bon dances and yukata costumes are also a new experience for many international travelers, allowing them to easily experience and enjoy Japanese culture and customs.
Japanese fireworks, which are an integral part of summer festivals, are said to be among the most beautiful in the world.

The following is a ranking of the most popular fireworks displays in Japan, as ranked by "Walker Plus."

No. 1 Atami Summer Fireworks Festival [Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture]
No. 2 Kinosaki Onsen Fireworks Display [Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture]
No. 3 Saijo Fireworks Festival [Saijo, Ehime Prefecture]
No. 4 Lake Kawaguchiko Fireworks Festival [Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture]
No. 5 Senshu Dream Fireworks [Sennan City, Osaka]
No. 6 Katayamazu Onsen Noryo Fireworks Festival [Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture]
No. 7 Toba Minato Fireworks [Toba, Mie Prefecture]
No. 8 Nightly Fireworks in Amatsu-Kominato [Kamogawa City, Chiba Prefecture]
No. 9 Hachinohe Fireworks Display [Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture]
No. 10 Toyako Long Run Fireworks Display [Toyako, Abuta, Hokkaido]
No. 11 Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival [Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture]
No. 12 Mother Farm Chiba Firework Festival [Futtsu City, Chiba Prefecture]
No. 13 Fuji Matsuri Fireworks Display [Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture]
No. 14 Furusato Tamba Hikami Summer Festival "Atago Festival" [Tamba City, Hyogo Prefecture]
No. 15 Meiji-mura Fireworks competition [Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture]
No. 16 Kumano Fireworks Festival [Kumano City, Mie Prefecture]
No. 17 Rindo Lake Fireworks Festival [Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture]
No. 18 Ashiya Summer Carnival [Ashiya City, Hyogo Prefecture]
No. 19 Edogawa Fireworks Festival [Edogawa, Tokyo]
No. 20 Night Festival Fireworks [Inuyama, Aichi]
No. 21 Maebashi Fireworks Festival [Maebashi, Gunma]
No. 22 Tama Home Special Fireworks Display (タマホームスペシャル花火物語) [Arao City, Kumamoto Prefecture]
No. 23 Nagashima Onsen Fireworks Contest [Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture]
No. 24 Hakone Gora Summer Festival [Hakone, Ashigarashita, Kanagawa Prefecture]
No. 25 Isawa Onsen Ukai Fireworks Festival [Fuefuki City, Yamanashi Prefecture]
No. 26 Mt.Fuji Climbing Season Opening Fireworks Celebration [Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture]
No. 27 Okayama Forest Park Fireworks [Akaiwa City, Okayama Prefecture]
No. 28 Yamanakako Fireworks Festival Hokosai [Yamanakako, Yamanashi Prefecture]
No. 29 HANABI Festival [Arao City, Kumamoto Prefecture]
No. 30 Itami Fireworks Festival [Itami, Hyogo]

Festivals to Check Out!

Image of street stalls
Photo:Street stalls

One of the best parts of Japan's festivals, and something we highly recommend checking out, is the variety of bustling stalls lining the festival grounds, which add to the festivities.
Yakisoba, Takoyaki, Yakitori, Ika-yaki, shaved ice, Taiyaki, and baby castella (sponge cakes) are especially popular.
One of the best ways to enjoy a Japanese festival is to enjoy the sounds of drums and other musical instruments, and the power of portable shrines and floats with the products you buy from the stalls.

There are also a number of unique festivals that are unfamiliar to Japanese people, but they are often covered by the international media, and foreign tourists often join in the festivities with the locals.
The Kanamara Festival held in April every year in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, is especially popular overseas, and it is a festival that is talked about on social networking sites every year.

Enjoy Japan's Various Events

Image of Hinamatsuri
Photo:Hinamatsuri

Besides festivals, there are many important events throughout the year as well.
The following are some of the major events that are enjoyed in Japan:

・January
New Year's (Jan. 1-5), Coming of Age Day (second Monday in January)

・February
Setsubun (Feb. 3), Valentine's Day (Feb. 14)

・March
Hinamatsuri (Mar. 3)

・April
Hanami and April Fool's Day (Apr. 1)

・May
Children's Day (May 5), Mother's Day (second Sunday in May)

・June
Father's Day (3rd Sunday in June)

・July
Tanabata (Jul. 7th)

・August
Obon (Aug. 13)

・September
Tsukimi (On a full moon around Sep. 30)

・October
Halloween (Oct. 31)

・Nov.
Shichi-Go-San (The closest weekend or holiday to Nov. 15)

・December
Christmas (Dec. 25), New Year's Eve and New Year's (Dec. 31)

As you can see, the Japanese are one of the most festival and event loving people in the world!

Japan's festivals, where you can enjoy anime, manga, games and idols that have become synonymous with Japanese pop culture and subculture, are held all over the world.

COOL JAPAN VIDEOS is a site that introduces the charms of Japan through videos related to festivals and events in Japan!

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