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Japan Events & Festivals

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Click the months below to read events taking place in Japan.

January

Winter Grand Sumo Tournament

Location: Tokyo

Unique Japan Tours Japan Farm StayDetails: Sumo wrestling, considered by many as Japan’s national sport, was once a form of ritual, dedicated to the Gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest. There are six Grand Tournaments a year, three in Tokyo, and one in Osaka, Nagoya and Kyushu. A tournament lasts for fifteen days with each competitor or rikishi fighting once every day against a different opponent. The winner of the tournament (rikishi with the best record of wins over losses) is awarded the Emperor’s Cup on the final day of the last match.

 

 

February

Sapporo Snow Festival

Rusutsu Resort Hokkaido SkiLocation: Tokyo

Details: Sumo wrestling, considered by many as Japan’s national sport, was once a form of ritual, dedicated to the Gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest. There are six Grand Tournaments a year, three in Tokyo, and one in Osaka, Nagoya and Kyushu. A tournament lasts for fifteen days with each competitor or rikishi fighting once every day against a different opponent. The winner of the tournament (rikishi with the best record of wins over losses) is awarded the Emperor’s Cup on the final day of the last match.

March

Hakone lake ashi cruise boatsSpring Grand Sumo Tournament

Location: Osaka

Details: Sumo wrestling, considered by many as Japan’s national sport, was once a form of ritual, dedicated to the Gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest. There are six Grand Tournaments a year, three in Tokyo, and one in Osaka, Nagoya and Kyushu. A tournament lasts for fifteen days with each competitor or rikishi fighting once every day against a different opponent. The winner of the tournament (rikishi with the best record of wins over losses) is awarded the Emperor’s Cup on the final day of the last match.

April

Takayama Spring Festivals

Location: Takayama

Details: Takayama’s Spring Festival ranks as one of Japan’s three most beautiful festivals. It is centered around the Hie Shrine and is held to pray for a good harvest. Festival highlights include a parade of magnificently carved yatai or giant wooden floats, and mechanical puppets in colourful costumes who play out an ancient drama from within the yatai in a spectacle not to be missed.

May

May Grand Sumo Tournament

Location: Tokyo

Details: Sumo wrestling, considered by many as Japan’s national sport, was once a form of ritual, dedicated to the Gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest. There are six Grand Tournaments a year, three in Tokyo, and one in Osaka, Nagoya and Kyushu. A tournament lasts for fifteen days with each competitor or rikishi fighting once every day against a different opponent. The winner of the tournament (rikishi with the best record of wins over losses) is awarded the Emperor’s Cup on the final day of the last match.

Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival)

Location: Kyoto

Details: This is one of Kyoto’s three most famous festivals and is held annually on May 15. Five hundred locals wearing splendid ancient costumes and traditional make­up parade through the main streets of Kyoto in a practice that dates back centuries. This festival came to be called Aoi Matsuri because aoi (hollyhock) leaves are used as ornaments not only on the people’s costumes, but even on cows and horses.

June

Sanno Matsuri

Location: Tokyo

Details: Sanno Matsuri is one of Japan’s three biggest festivals. The main procession called jinkosai takes place in the middle of June in every other year according to the Western calendar. This festival grew to prominence during the Edo Period (1603­1867) when the Tokugawa Shogunate granted permission for the procession to enter the grounds of Edo Castle. It was also one of the three largest festivals of Japan.

About 300 people dressed in ancient costumes parade through the heart of Tokyo including Tokyo Station, Ginza, and in front of the Diet Building (parliament). Consisting of mikoshi (portable shrines) adorned with a phoenix on the roof, dashi floats, people carrying drums, people on horseback, the procession extends over a length of 600 meters. You will also see people dressed as the legendary goblin called Tengu, characterized by a red face and a long nose, and believed to possess supernatural powers. The procession which departs from Hie­jinja Shrine at 8 o’clock in the morning does not return to the shrine until early in the evening.

July

Summer Grand Sumo Tournament

Location: Nagoya

Details: Sumo wrestling, considered by many as Japan’s national sport, was once a form of ritual, dedicated to the Gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest. There are six Grand Tournaments a year, three in Tokyo, and one in Osaka, Nagoya and Kyushu. A tournament lasts for fifteen days with each competitor or rikishi fighting once every day against a different opponent. The winner of the tournament (rikishi with the best record of wins over losses) is awarded the Emperor’s Cup on the final day of the last match.

Gion Matsuri Festival

Location: Kyoto

Details: The Gion Matsuri, familiarly known as ‘Gion­san,’ is a festival held at Yasaka­jinja Shrine. The highlight is the splendid pageant of some 30 floats called yamaboko proceeding along the main streets of Kyoto on the 17th of July every year.

Nachi­-no­-Hi­-Matsuri

Location: Kumano Kodo, Kumano Nachi Taisha

Details: Nachi­no­hi­matsuri is one of the three largest fire festivals of Japan. It is staged annually in the Kumano mountains of Wakayama Prefecture, an area registered as a World Heritage Site. Twelve vermilion mikoshi (portable shrines), 6 meters tall, decorated with ogifans and mirrors, are designed in the image of the Nachi­no­otaki Falls (the Great Waterfall of Nachi) near the shrine. At the Kumano Nachi­taisha Shrine, the waterfall itself is the object of worship and is regarded as a deity. During the festival, you can enjoy viewing the mystical scene of 12 huge 50­kg pine torches waved around so very close to these portable shrines that it appears as if the portable shrines are about to be scorched. The enormous pine torches represent the 12 deities dwelling in Kumano as well as the 12 months of the year. The portable shrines, which are produced in the image of the sacred falls, are filled with the spirits of the 12 gods, and then purified by the fire of the pine torches; in this manner, vitality is enhanced through these sacred rituals, which is one important objective of this festival.

Tenjin Matsuri

Location: Osaka

Details: NHaving a history of more than 1,000 years, the Tenjin Matsuri, which is one of the three greatest festivals of Japan, is also the world’s greatest boat festival. It is a summer festival held at the Tenman Shrine dedicated to Sugawara­no­Michizane (845­903), who is deified as Tenman Tenjin, the patron god of learning and art. On the days of the festival, traditional Japanese performing arts such as kagura music, which is performed when paying homage to gods, and bunraku theatrical performances using puppets are performed in all parts of the city, and the entire city becomes filled with a festive mood.

One of the highlights of the festival is the land procession, which is a parade of some 3,000 people dressed in the imperial­court style of the 8th­12th Centuries marching beside portable shrines. The other highlight is the boat procession, when the same 3,000 people board some 100 boats from the approach of the Tenmabashi Bridge and sail upstream.

Sumida River Fireworks Display

Location: Tokyo

Details: One of the major fireworks displays of Tokyo. On the last Saturday of July, the old­town evening sky turns into a spectacle of dazzling colors from several tens of thousands of fireworks. This annual event is said to have originated in the custom of the common people of Edo viewing fireworks while enjoying the cool of the summer evening.

August

Awa Odori Dance Festival

Location: Tokushima

Details: Awa is the former name for Tokushima prefecture and Odorimeans to dance. During Obon season, over one million people come to Tokushima, to watch the most famous of many dance
festivals in Japan. Dressed in their summer kimono and costumes, the men and women perform their street dances to the lyrics of the fool’s dance: Fools dance and fools watch, if both are fools, you might as well dance!!

Earth Celebration

Location: Sado Island

Details: Once a year in the quiet port town of Ogi, people gather from all over the world to transform Sado Island into a bustling international arts festival, Earth Celebration. The world renowned Japanese Taiko drummers, Kodo, are home to Sado Island and invite musicians and perform at this energetic festival.

Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (Daimonji Bonfire)

Location: Kyoto

Details: The Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (Daimonji Bonfire) is an event held on the evening of August 16th, when gigantic Chinese characters and other motifs are depicted by fires lit to illuminate the surroundings for patrolling on the slopes of the mountains surrounding the Kyoto Basin. It is a famous for evoking the image of a Kyoto summer.

September

September Grand Sumo Tournament

Location: Tokyo

Details: Sumo wrestling, considered by many as Japan’s national sport, was once a form of ritual, dedicated to the Gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest. There are six Grand Tournaments a year, three in Tokyo, and one in Osaka, Nagoya and Kyushu. A tournament lasts for fifteen days with each competitor or rikishi fighting once every day against a different opponent. The winner of the tournament (rikishi with the best record of wins over losses) is awarded the Emperor’s Cup on the final day of the last match.

October

Takayama Autumn Festival

Location: Takayama

Details: Ranked as one of Japans three most beautiful festivals, the Takayama festival highlights include a parade of magnificently carved giant wooden floats, ancient puppets, and colourful costumes.

Kurama Fire Festival Kyoto

Location: Kyoto

Details: This is one of Kyoto’s three most spectacular festivals said to reenact the scene of the enshrined deity greeted after traveling from the Imperial Palace to Kurama­no­sato village, at the end of the Heian Period. Watch fires are lit at the entrances of local houses. At 6pm the town is lit up with torches carried by children and locals wearing straw warrior sandals and costumes.

The Japanese Formula One Grand Prix

Location: Suzuka Circuit, Mie

Details: The Japanese Formula One Grand Prix is held in October over one weekend at Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture. This attracts thousands of both domestic and overseas spectators every year so we recommend booking your tickets early to get the best seats at the best price.

Nada-no-Kenka Matsuri (Nada Fighting Festival)

Location: Himeji

Details: Nada no Kenka Matsuri is the popular name for a festival held at the Matsubara Hachiman Shrine in the town of Shirahama, Himeji City. It came to be called by this name, Kenka Matsuri or ‘Fighting Festival’ because the mikoshi (portable shrines) are jolted against one another when carried on the shoulders of the men in the parade.

Nikko Toshogu Shrine Shuki Taisai Grand Autumn Festival

Location: Nikko

Details: This is the autumn festival of Nikko Toshogu, a registered World Heritage Site, where the Shunki Reitaisai ­ Grand Spring Festival is staged on May 17th and 18th. Just as in the Spring Festival, the main attraction in the Grand Autumn Festival is the grand procession of men dressed in samurai costumes (known as Hyakumono­Zoroe Sennin Gyoretsu or the Parade of 1,000 Samurai Warriors).

Jidai Matsuri

Location: Kyoto

Details: A grand ancient­costume procession where the long history of Japan unfolds before the spectators. A festival held at the Heian Jingu Shrine, the Jidai Matsuri is one of the three largest festivals of Kyoto together (July 1st ­ 31st).

November

Winter Grand Sumo Tournament

Location: Fukuoka

Details: Sumo wrestling, considered by many as Japan’s national sport, was once a form of ritual, dedicated to the Gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest. There are six Grand Tournaments a year, three in Tokyo, and one in Osaka, Nagoya and Kyushu. A tournament lasts for fifteen days with each competitor or rikishi fighting once every day against a different opponent. The winner of the tournament (rikishi with the best record of wins over losses) is awarded the Emperor’s Cup on the final day of the last match.

Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu (Feudal Lord’s Procession in Hakone)

Location: Hakone

Details: An annual tourist event held on Culture Day (a national holiday), November 3rd, at Yumoto Onsen, Hakone. A procession of a total of 170 people dressed up as samurai warriors and princesses parades over a distance of some 6 km in the hot spring town. The procession is reproduced in the style of the Daimyo Gyoretsu (feudal lord’s procession)which was also known as sankin kotai during the Edo Period (1603­1867). The suite of retainers, each assigned with his role, and armed with spear, bow and arrow, or gun, march on as they carry their lord in the palanquin to the words, ‘Down! Down! The Lord comes!’ voiced aloud by those leading the procession.

December

Chichibu Yomatsuri (Chichibu Night Festival)

Location: Saitama

Details: Chichibu Yomatsuri is a festival of Chichibu Shrine which has a history of more than 2,000 years. It is one of Japan’s three greatest hikiyama (float) festivals, together with the Gion Matsuri of Kyoto (July 1st­31st) and the Takayama Matsuri of Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture (April 14th and 15th, and October 9th and 10th).

Kasuga Wakamiya On­ Matsuri

Location: Nara

Details: The On­Matsuri is a festival held at Wakamiya­jinja Shrine which stands in the precincts of the Kasuga Taisha Grand Shrine. It was first organized in the 12th Century when an epidemic prevailed, and prayers were offered at this festival for the eradication of the plague and also for the blessing of a rich harvest. This historic festival continues to be one of the largest annual events of Nara Prefecture, attracting a great many tourists.

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