Are You Going To Miss These Unique Japanese Festivals?
Ok so they're Japanese festivals. But what's all the fuss about? Are they worth bothering with and, if so, how do you find out when they're happening and how to get there?! That's what this page is all about.
Besides the official public holidays on the Japanese calendar, there are many Japan festivals that celebrate culture, tradition and the lighter side of life. They're also your chance to get right into the thick of it and feel what it's like to be the bearer of a mikoshi or a dancer in the parade. What are we on about? Check out the video.
This is one of my favorite local festivals in a little place called Musashi Koyama on the Meguro train line. The mikoshi is the thing you can see the guys carrying and bouncing up and down in the video. It is believed to house the spirit of the festival and must be paraded round all the streets in the local area. It's no small feat and if you do nothing else you've got to cheer on the guys doing all the hard work! Great stuff.
Below you'll find a list of the major annual Japanese festivals with a link to more information about the origins of each event. All these festivals happen across the country so whether you're in Tokyo or somewhere else in Japan you can still join in the party! For festivals that happen only in Tokyo, see our Tokyo festivals page.
Ok! It's time to become a seasoned Japan festivals fan. We are : )
The Japanese Festival Year. What's On When?
A month by month guide to the Japanese festival year. A rare opportunity to see the Japanese really let their hair down and join in the revelry.
January - March
I love to see these gorgeous kimonos on Coming Of Age Day.
Everywhere you go you see crowds of friends hanging out
together all dressed like this : )
- January - The domain of the shinenkai or Japanese New Year party. These go on throughout the month to welcome in the new year with friends, family, and colleagues. There are no other major events as January is dominated by Oshogatsu, perhaps the most important cultural event on the Japanese calendar.
- February - Drive out evil spirits by joining in the bean throwing Setsubun festival. Sensoji temple is one of the best places to do this in Tokyo. Don't forget the international favorite of Valentine's Day, although there is a slight twist to this celebration in Japan.
- March - The Hina Matsuri on March 3rd is girls day in Japan. Unlike Kodomo no Hi, this is not a national holiday, but it is a day packed with traditional meaning. Also in March is White Day, the sister day to Valentine's Day in Japan.
April - June
- April - The beginning of April sees the Japanese cherry blossom bloom and hanami, or cherry blossom festival, in full swing. Where are the parties? In parks, gardens, just about anywhere really where you can find a cherry tree in Tokyo. April 29th sees the beginning of Golden Week, a time when the whole of Japan seems to be on the move. Be prepared for packed trains, huge traffic jams, and expensive prices during this traditional holiday.
- May - Two of the three largest Tokyo festivals take place during May. The Kanda festival occurs annually around May 15, while the three day Sanja Matsuri takes place in Asakusa on the third weekend of the month. It is also the month of Mother's Day in Japan.
- June - Rainy season descends and the humidity rises. Welcome to the Tokyo climate! The Sanno Festival, the last of Tokyo's big 3, takes place around June 15th in Chiyoda-ku at the Hie shrine.
July - September
You gotta love the fireworks. Lots of 'boom' magic!
- July - Tanabata, or the star festival, is first of the Japanese festivals in July. Then it's on to hotter things as the temperature rises and summer matsuris begin with yukatas and fireworks in abundance. The largest Tokyo fireworks festival takes place at the end of this month on the Sumida river. Be ready to join the crowds. This is an extremely popular event!
- August - Hanabi (fire flower) festivals continue from July into August and are an amazing spectacle to see. An average show has around 10,000 fireworks - the larger events can have anything up to 22,000 or more. See what Tokyo fireworks are on and when and check out one of our favorites, the Tamagawa River fireworks 2010. The Asakusa Samba Festival and Azabu Juban matsuri in Tokyo are carnival affairs. Expect crowded streets, food stalls selling a variety of local delicacies, and good humor all around. Also in August is the more historical Obon holiday in honor of family members who have passed away.
- September - A time to relax as the Tokyo temperatures start to fall. Although this is not technically one of the Japanese festivals, September 1 is the annual Disaster Preparation Day in remembrance of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Tokyo knows it has to be prepared. A major earthquake here could have enormous worldwide, as well as local consequences.
Our Tokyo News Updates
Get regular updates so you don't miss the Japanese festivals being held around Tokyo. Why not join our readers who get a heads up on where, when, and how to get there : ) As well as timely reminders of major annual events, we also share news about any unusual or one-off celebrations that will be going on during your stay.
Don't miss out!
October - December
The reds, golds, and oranges of Autumn are stunning
- October - Just as April sees the cherry blossoms and hanami, the end of October sees koyo, or the turning of the leaves. People travel for miles to take in the golds, reds, and oranges of fall or Japan Autumn. Areas like Karuizawa, Nikko and Hakone are especially popular with Tokyoites.
- November - Shichi-go-san is a cultural festival for children aged 3, 5, and 7. Temples and shrines will see many visits during this annual event. If you're a sucker for cute kids this Japan festival is a must : )
- December - Wrap up the year with Christmas in Japan. December 24th is famous for being a romantic date. Couples will go out for a meal together and share some quality time. Christmas is not an official holiday so people will be going to work on the 25th but the shops and decorations do their best to capture the commercial aspects of this celebration. More important in local tradition, throughout the month there are bonenkai parties (year end parties) in readiness for Japanese New Years Eve.
Filled in the Japanese festivals you want to see on our Tokyo Travel Essentials planner? Time to move to step 3...
Taming Tokyo: The Guidebook
Wouldn't you love to find a guidebook that is just for first-time visitors to Tokyo. Find those all important things that only a local would know like: what to expect at the airport, what Japanese is most useful for a traveler to know, what packing tips are specific for Tokyo, what should you do in an emergency, the basics of using the trains, and much more. Head over to Taming Tokyo today and judge for yourself.