Japan is a rich country that has plenty to offer tourists, from amusement parks in Universal Studios Osaka and Tokyo Disneyland to the beautiful and old monuments and buildings of Kyoto. The country also has many unique festivals for those who want to immerse themselves in the culture. Here are some of the festivals you can experience while in Japan.
Sapporo Snow Festival
The snow festival in Hokkaido is one of the country’s biggest attractions in winter. Many would-be participants often mark dates in February as it is often the month where festivities begin. Visitors can view a variety of ice sculptures, slides, and even try snow rafting during the festival. Most of the displays and activities are held at places like the Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome.
This lantern festival takes place in the first week of August in Akita wherein participants pray to the gods for a bountiful harvest. Performers carry Kanto poles on different parts of their bodies such as their lower backs, foreheads, or shoulders through the main street accompanied by the festive music. A Kanto is a pole made of bamboo that bears lanterns. The biggest ones are approximately 50kg heavy and 12m high. The performance is a show of skill, strength, and mastery as the poles and the lanterns are quite heavy.
If you want a festival with vibrant colors and plenty of dancing, Bon Odori event is the one you should see and participate in. The dance honors ancestors and celebrates life. The festivities take place in the first week of August. More than 10,000 people in more than a hundred groups dance wearing hats with artificial flowers. The dancers are accompanied by floats carrying drummers. Visitors can also participate in the dance.
Hana Matsuri Asakusa
This is a Flower Festival that celebrates Buddha’s birthday. The main activity is at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa; however, you can still join in on the festivities in Tokyo’s other temples, as they celebrate this festival as well. The mix of colors and the vibrant mood of participants add to the excitement of the occasion.
Sawara no Taisai
Sawara no Tasai is one of the three great festivals in the Kanto region and dates back three centuries. Visitors can see elaborately decorated wooden floats with the musicians and dolls that are approximately 4m to 5m tall. Once the festivities begin, you’ll hear lively music, cheers, and people having lots of fun.
This festival takes place in the middle of summer in July at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. This event honors the dead and features a lot of beer and food vendors. While walking on the path to the main shrine, you will see around 30,000 lanterns hung creating a tunnel effect and dazzling the night sky with its bright lights. You may also see groups of people carrying small shrines through the crowd.
August is a month of festivals in Japan; the Niigata Matsuri is just one of the many occasions visitors can participate in during this time. On the first day, you’ll see thousands of people dancing to festive folk music on the main street. Day two is just as fun with the parade of the eight mikoshi along with dancing geishas and a traditional drum performance. On its third day, thousands of fireworks light up the night sky in different colors.
Takaoka Mikurumayama Matsuri
This is a festival that uses a number of floats. It is proud of its heritage and culture that’s why it adheres to the design used centuries ago for its centerpieces. Takaoka is famous as a center of crafts, which include lacquer and metalwork. Local artisans decorate each float with various beautiful decorations from the wheels to the top. The floats are lit-up the night before the festivities, so visitors can see the centerpieces up close.
This fire festival takes place annually in August in Fujiyoshida. This festival has more than 500 years of history and is done to prevent Mount Fuji’s eruption. It also celebrates the end of the season for climbing. Several torches are lit along the streets, and locals transfer and carry the deity and goddess of Mount Fuji to different parts of the town.
The Takayama Festival includes festivals that take place in the spring and autumn. The festive occasion is characterized by people wearing flamboyant hats with bird feathers, the sound of beating drums, and lion dancing. There are elaborately designed floats and human-like marionettes. The processions are the main draw and provide visitors with a glimpse of the region’s culture.
This fire festival takes place in the Grand Shrine of Kumano Nachi. Visitors will see more than 10 portable shrines with mirrors and fans on it. You will also see men wearing white robes with each one holding a torch. These men will carry the torches up and down; they do this to purify the shrines.
These are only some of the cultural experiences visitors can enjoy when they visit Japan for different festivals. Each region is unique and offers a distinct experience of local culture and history. Participating in a festival is one way to immerse yourself in the country you are visiting.