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A magical evening at Nebuta Matsuri

Never having been so far north before, Hannah set out on a road-trip in search of the famed paper-lanterns of Nebuta Matsuri. Vibrant, bustling and impressive, this festival is sure worth a visit! Its origins are unclear, but it is thought to be a cleansing ritual and prayer for good health. Living in Japan, festivals…

Type: festivals  |   |  Tags: , , , ,

Akita

Akita is both a prefecture and city in the Tohoku region of northern Japan. Its attractions are the natural beauty of its mountains and coastline, hot springs and the town of Kakunodate, which preserves one of Japan’s most interesting samurai districts. Akita city is also famous for its Kanto Matsuri Festival, which takes place at…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Aoi Festival

Like the Gion Matsuri, Kyoto’s summer festival, the Aoi Matsuri has its roots in ritual and began in the eighth century. Properly known as the Kamo Matsuri, the Aoi Matsuri features an impressive parade in the style of the Heian Court. The procession is made up of costumed participants, many riding horses and others leading…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Aomori

Aomori is both the northernmost prefecture and prefectural capital on Honshu, Japan’s main island. Formerly the main transport hub for accessing Hokkaido, the opening of the Seikan Undersea Railway Tunnel and the rise of cheap domestic flights means that most travellers now bypass the city altogether. Today the city of Aomori is best known for…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Awa Odori Festival

The Awa Dance (Awa Odori) is Tokushima’s largest annual event and boasts a history of over 400 years. The festival is well established in various areas even outside the prefecture, and Awa Dance troupes are regularly invited to events outside of Japan, placing it alongside the Rio Carnivale as one of the largest dance events…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , , ,
Gifu Tejikara Himatsuri Fire Festival

Gifu Tejikara Fire Festival

The Tejikara Fire Festival is held at Tejikara Shrine in Gifu City on the second Saturday of every April and is said to have a history of more than 300 years. Cascades of fire sparks rain down on men stripped to the waist who carry the portable shrine on their shoulders; great sprays of fire…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Gion Festival

Although Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto, is said to celebrate a festival every day somewhere in the city, the Gion Matsuri is generally believed to be the best, and marks the highlight of the Kyoto festival year. Dating back to the ninth century, the Gion Matsuri has its roots in a purification ritual intended to clear…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Jidai Festival

The Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages) is one of Kyoto’s three great festivals, along with the Gion and Aoi Festivals. Held every October 22nd, the festival dates back to the Meiji Period, and celebrates Kyoto’s inception as Japan’s capital in 794. The festival features an impressive procession of around 2,000 costumed participants, who wear…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Kanda Matsuri

The Kanda Matsuri is one of Tokyo‘s most famous festivals and takes place in mid May during odd numbered years, alternating with the Sanno Matsuri which is held in even numbered years. The Kanda Matsuri is held over an entire week, but the main events usually happen over the weekend closest to May 15th. The…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Kurama Fire Festival

Japan’s fire festivals are spectacular and Kurama’s is no exception. A small town just outside Kyoto, Kurama literally lights up every October 22nd, when giant watch-fires are lit throughout the town at night. The festival starts at dusk, and features a parade of torches carried through the town from the Yuki Shrine to the Kurama…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Life on the road

Keen to see parts of Japan she hadn’t seen before, Hannah hired a car and set off on a road trip to northern Honshu. Driving in Japan couldn’t be simpler, especially for British tourists as Japan also drives on the left side of the road! Summer isn’t everyone’s first choice of season to visit Japan….

Type: festivals  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Maiko Odori

Geisha Dances More than any other place in Japan, Kyoto is known for geisha: both Gion and Pontocho, Japan’s best known geisha quarters, lie within the old capital’s boundaries, and exclusive tea houses are tucked in amongst the houses and restaurants of Kyoto’s more traditional areas. Though visiting a tea house is traditionally very difficult…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nebuta Matsuri

The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is a summer festival that takes place in Aomori, Aomori Prefecture. The festival attracts the most tourists of any of the country’s nebuta festivals, and is counted among the three largest festivals in the Tohoku region. It was designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1980, and as one of…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Onbashira

Onbashira is a festival held only once every six years in the Lake Suwa area of Nagano, Japan. The purpose of the festival is to symbolically renew the Suwa Taisha or Suwa Grand Shrine. “Onbashira” can be literally translated as “the honored pillars”. The Onbashira festival is reputed to have continued, uninterrupted, for 1200 years….

Type: festivals  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Sanja Matsuri

Tokyo’s Sanja Matsuri, held on the third weekend in May, is a three day celebration featuring portable shrines and traditionally clothed participants that boisterously transform the old shitamachi district of Asakusa into a riotous festival. The Sanja Matsuri officially celebrates the deities enshrined at Asakusa Shrine, and is a wonderfully welcoming festival that allows visitors…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

Sanno Matsuri

Originally begun during the Edo Period and soon growing into one of Japan’s largest festivals, today the Sanno Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s famous festivals, along with the Kanda Matsuri. It takes place in mid June in even numbered years, alternating with the Kanda Matsuri which takes place in odd numbered years. The Sanno Festival…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

Sapporo

Sapporo’s historical claim to fame not only lies in the fact that it hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, but in its status as one of the nation’s youngest major cities. Though it is now the capital of Hokkaido, famous across Japan for its ramen, beer and snow festival, it is hard to imagine Sapporo as…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Hokkaido  |  Tags: , , , , ,

Shunki Reitaisai (Tōshō-gū Festival)

On 17th & 18th May, Nikko‘s famous Tōshō-gū shrine holds a legendary festival in the honour of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo era. A huge procession takes 1000 samurai from one end of Nikko to the other, reflecting Tokugawa Ieyasu’s final wish: upon his death in 1616, the legendary…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Tado Festival

The Tado Festival takes place every year during Golden Week on May 4th and 5th at Tado Shrine in the city of Kuwana, Mie Prefecture. The main event of the festival is a horse jumping event which features young horseback riders in samurai armor who must jump a horse up and over a three-meter hill….

Type: festivals  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , , ,

Takayama festival

A quiet mountain town much of the year, Takayama’s Spring and Autumn festivals are two of Japan’s best, and draw crowds of revellers from across the country and overseas. Like Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri, the Takayama Festival centers around a parade of elaborately decorated floats, which are brought through the old town’s narrow streets between the…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Takayama Yatai Kaikan

The huge, majestic and ornate floats used in the Takayama Festival are stored away for the rest of the year and at any one time, four of the 11 floats can be seen at the Takayama Yatai Kaikan. The actual floats on display change throughout the year so that visitors can see the entire collection….

Type: festivals  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Tenjin Matsuri

Osaka’s Tenjin Festival is ranked as one of Japan’s top three festivals, along with Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Tokyo’s Kanda Matsuri. The festival started over 1000 years ago and today takes place on July 24 and 25 every year. The main celebrations are held on the festival’s second day, July 25, including a land procession…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , ,

Tokushima

Tokushima Prefecture is situated on the eastern side of Shikoku and the prefectural capital is Tokushima City. Its is connected to mainland Japan by the Akashi-Kaikyo and Naruto Bridges, and can be reached from Osaka in two and a half hours. The prefecture is best known for the Awa Odori, a dance festival held in…

Type: festivals  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , ,