Matsuri: Japanese Festivals - Japan's Festival Calendar
NOVEMBER JAPAN FESTIVALS
Karatsu, Saga Prefecture
Famous in Japan for its hikiyama floats. These are carried on the shoulder like ordinary mikoshi (i.e. floats) but are topped with outlandishly decorated fish, lions, samurai helmets and other paraphernalia. They lead a boisterous, sake-fuelled parade around the castle town of Karatsu. Karatsu is on the western coast of Kyushu, south of Fukuoka.
Kagoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture
At this, the largest autumn festival in Southern Kyushu, you will be treated to a street parade of no less than 22,000 dancers. Attracts crowds of over 600,000.
Kibitsu-hiko Shrine, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture
Men wearing striking masks or dressed as lions, run around the crowded streets looking for children to 'thrash' with bamboo whisks. Legend has it that children 'beaten' in this way will be safe from illness for the coming year.
Awa Puppet Theatre
Kisawa, Tokushima Prefecture
Though still an amateur art after, the rural puppet drama of the Awa region is just as famous in Japan as the bunraku puppet drama of Osaka. At this annual event, classic plays are performed on an outdoor stage.
Tengu forest goblin followed by a procession of happi-clad children carrying a mikoshi
Otoshi Shrine, Tsunozu, Shimane
Following an all-night performance of kagura sacred dances, a harvest festival with mikoshi, Chinese lions (shi-shi) and taiko drums led by costumed tengu forest goblin.
Shitenno-ji Temple, Osaka
A parade of thousands of people dressed as heroes and historical figures takes to the streets of Osaka. Colourful boat-shaped floats join the procession and add to the magnificent spectacle.
Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu
A parade of 150 in full period-dress in Hakone recreating the crossings that the daimyo (feudal lords) had to make in order to present themselves to the Shogun during the Edo-period (1603-1867).
Fire God Festival
Kirishima Jinja Shrine, Takachiho-gawara Furumiyaato, Kagoshima Prefecture
Kagura dances, thundering taiko drums and bonfires celebrating the time when the gods landed on the earth at a site nearby.
Fire festival anticipating the coming of winter. 30 massive torches, each 10m tall and 3 tons in weight, are lit and paraded to the rhythms of taiko drums.
The festival recreates the atmosphere of the Heian court when the Emperor and his court leisurely cruised the Oi River in Arashiyama in Kyoto. Five period-decorated boats filled with people in Heian costume, playing traditional instruments and reciting noh and kyogen begin the water parade followed by a larger flotilla of similar vessels.
Three, five and seven year-old children in their finest kimono are taken by their parents to shrines to pray for the children's future health and good fortune.
Japanese children dressed for the Shichi-go-san Festival in November
Ebisu Shrine, Hiroshima City
Festival dedicated to Ebisu-san, the god of commerce, held, appropriately, at a shrine behind the Mitsukoshi and Tenmaya department stores. Many shops take part by selling bargain goods, and street-stalls appear all over the area.
Hofu Tenman-gu Shrine, Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture
One of the most famous 'naked' festivals in Southern Japan. Men dressed only in loincloths brave the cold to carry mikoshi (floats) through the streets of Hofu in Yamaguchi to the Tenman-gu Shrine.
DISCLAIMER Festivals may be cancelled or postponed without much warning. Check with your local tourist office for confirmation.
Books on Japanese Festivals