Matsuri: Japanese Festivals
Japanese Festivals 祭り
Japan is known for the color and exhuberence of its festivals - matsuri - connected with shrines and temples across the nation.
Japanese festivals are often connected with special historical events, fertility rites or prayers to the gods for good health.
Some festivals are nationwide events such as the Doll's Festival in March, the Boy's Festival in May, Tanabata Festival in July, the Obon Festivals in August and Shichogosan in November.
Many Japanese festivals involve a procession with a mikoshi or giant floats pulled through the streets with participants in period dress or happi coats.
Japanese festivals are connected with the changing seasons beginning with the New Year or Ganjitsu when people across the country visit a shrine or temple to pray for good fortune over the next 12 months.
Setsubun festivals in February mark the end of winter and the coming of spring by the lunar calendar followed by peach blossom or Hina Matsuri in March.
The hot Japanese summer is marked by Obon festivals in July and August and prayers for the souls of departed ancestors. Although a solemn occasion, Obon is also a time for joyous dances in such places as Gujo Hachiman and the Awa Odori in Tokushima, Shikoku, as the souls of family members are thought to return for a brief visit and a knees-up.
Autumn is the time for a number of harvest festivals as the rice is collected and the first sake of the year is made and celebrated.
Kyoto and Tokyo are especially well-known for their colorful festivals but every region in Japan can boast some remarkable and often quirky events. See below for a listing of Japanese festivals by month.
Japan Festival Listing By Month
Tengu forest goblin followed by a procession of happi-clad children carrying a mikoshi
The Sanja Matsuri is one of Tokyo's most lively festivals
Other Festivals In Japan
Ako Festival - Ako - December
Anjin Festival - Ito city Shizuoka - August
Aoi Festival - Kyoto - May
Coming of Age Day - Nationwide - January
Daimonji Festival - Kyoto - August
Danjiri Festival - Kishiwada - September
Gion Matsuri - Kyoto - July
Hamamatsu Festival - Hamamatsu - May
Hina Matsuri - Nationwide - March
Jidai Matsuri - Kyoto - October
Kurama Fire Festival - Kyoto - October
Kuromatsu Festival - Kuromatsu - July
Murakami Dolls Festival - Murakami city, Niigata, March
Nagasaki Lantern Festival - Nagasaki - February
Otabi Festival - Komatsu - May
Sapporo Snow Festival - Sapporo - February
Shichigosan Festival - Nationwide - November
Shirahagi Festival - Kitsuki - October
Summer Music Festivals in Japan - Fuji Rock, Summer Sonic
Tanabata Festival - Nationwide - July
Yabusame Festival - Tsuwano - April
DISCLAIMER Festivals may be cancelled or postponed without much warning. Check with your local tourist office for confirmation.
Hiei Jinja's Sanno Matsuri festival in Yotsuya, Tokyo