The Most Popular Japanese Festivals You Must Visit
With such a rich and vibrant culture, it’s no wonder Japan has become one of the most sought after travel destinations for tourists. Home to magnificent temples and shrines, mountainous national parks, beautiful gardens and imperial palaces, it’s a place that will both amaze and surprise.
While there is an overwhelming number of intriguing sights to see during your visit, no trip to Japan would be complete without experiencing one its famed festivals which are held regularly throughout the year.
Here, we’ve rounded up eight of the most popular festivals in Japan that will give you a taste of the country’s exciting culture and, most importantly, a good time.
Arguably Japan’s most famous festival – and quite possibly the largest – Gion Matsuri dates all the way back to the year 869 and is celebrated for the entire month of July, culminating in a grand procession of floats (known as Yamaboko Junko) on July 17 and 24.
The impressive parade is quite the spectacle due to the size of the floats. Some measure up to 25 metres and weigh up to 12 tons, requiring around 40 people to pull them through the streets.
And if you’re keen to visit in the summer, have a look at these other Japanese festivals in July, which take place each year.
It’s Japan’s largest traditional dance festival which takes place on the streets of Tokushima City in the summer. This festival attracts more than a million people to gather and get into the groove.
The event typically features traditonal costumes – often including kimono’s and straw hats – and a healthy dose of energetic singing, dancing and chanting. You can invest in your very own kimono in honor of the event!
Also known as the snow festival, this impressive annual event in Sapporo showcases some of the world’s largest and most impressive snow and ice sculptures.
The festival is held across seven days and attracts more than two million visitors each year to enjoy the snow-sculpting competitions, snowball fights, snow slides, ice bars and awe-inspiring ice displays.
It’s one of Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shinto festivals, but it only comes around once every two years. So if you’re planning to experience the action, make sure you schedule your visit on an odd numbered year.
Originating in the 17th century, the traditional festival is renowned for the portable shrines that are paraded through the central streets of the city. In a day-long procession, the shrines are accompanied by thousands of people in colourful costumes and floats featuring characters from popular folk stores and contemporary pop culture.
This traditional festival is one of Japan’s largest and is a huge celebration to ring in the New Year. As the most important holiday in Japan, the festival typically extends beyond the one day, with partying ongoing from January 1 to January 3.
The New Year is traditionally welcomed by eating soba (buckwheat noodles) for good health and it is customary to visit a shrine or temple during the three days. Special dishes will also be prepared and families will gather to play games and enjoy some quality time together, with a focus on leaving last year’s troubles behind. To celebrate Shogatsu, many people like to exchange gifts with the people they love. You can exchange some authentic Japanese gifts through our gifts online!
Asakusa Samba Matsuri
If you’re a fan of dance festivals, this extravagant summer event is one you won’t want to miss. Attracting 500,000 visitors each year, the popular Tokyo festival has run since 1981 and is a vibrant celebration of Samba, which sees a colourful carnival of parades featuring musicians, dancers and extravagant costumes light up Japan’s busy capital.
Known also as the cherry blossom festival, Hanami is a long-standing Japanese tradition of welcoming spring and celebrating the fleeting, temporal beauty of nature.
The event dates vary across the country since blooms typically appear first in the south, but it is typically held between March and May. To mark the arrival of spring, festival goes will gather in parks under the blooming cherry blossoms and enjoy food, drink and traditional songs to celebrate the occasion.
Have a read of our blog to find out more about Japan’s celebration of the cherry blossom, and other flower symbolism in Japanese culture.
Held in the lively city of Osaka at the Tenmangu Shrine, this 1,000 year old festival is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, the Japanese deity of scholarship and learning, and is famed for its land and river boat processions and elaborate firework displays.
The extravagant event is held annually every July and is renowned for its party atmosphere, with plenty of traditional food stalls on offer and energetic parades through the city streets.
For more information on Japanese traditions and customs, have a read of our blog to learn more about the culture.