Here’s a list of the most popular festivals of Japan (and my favorite) you have to experience! Read on to find out!
Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, is a majestic country with a vibrant culture. There are a ton of big celebrations in Japanese culture.
Festivals are thought to promote prosperity, happiness, love, and community among a nation’s population, without which a nation cannot exist as a nation.
Celebrations are incomplete without food, dance, heartfelt music, traditional dances, entertainment, fun, and games. More than merely its aesthetic appeal, Japan is highly known for its festivals.
Numerous celebrations known as matsuri are held throughout Japan. If you enjoy delectable food, tradition, and culture as I do, then Japan is your go-to place.
- Related: Cool Things To Do In Japan
Here are a few experiences of different festivals in Japan that I have loved attending on my trip to Japan:
Popular Festivals of Japan
Sapporo Snow Festival
The Sapporo Snow Festival is among the most well-known winter events. The Sapporo Snow Festival is celebrated annually in Sapporo for seven days in the month of February.
Every year, this festival attracts zillions of visitors from all over the world to see the enormous snow sculptures inspired by Star Wars and Final Fantasy. Incredible and thumping great sculptures appear even more magnificent when they are illuminated at night.
The Odori Park area has stunning light shows that make it look attractive both during the day and at night. This festival exhibits excellent craftsmanship and originality. Observing how ice sculptures are created is indeed very interesting.
It takes a lot of talent, effort, and perseverance to create such masterpieces. You can see that these were all created by hand and did not use any moulds. Handcrafted sculptures elevated their level of significance.
The aura of the festival is so enthralling it can’t be missed. These are the memories from an ice bar I cherish the most.
It was a real pleasure celebrating festivities in the snow with enlightening music, delicacies, snow slides, games, dance, and fun places to visit with family, especially in winter. I hope you found it as entertaining as I did.
To commemorate femininity, Japan proudly holds celebrations for girls called Hinamatsuri. Hinamatsuri is one of the most iconic and traditional festivals in Japan.
On March 3, all families celebrate female children and hope for the continued happiness, health, and prosperity of young girls.
Japanese celebrate the honor of their “coming home”. This festival first occurred during the Heian Period (794–1185) when individuals held a similar ceremony to ask for luck. People used to believe that the dolls would ward off evil spirits or natural disasters.
During the Edo Period, people started displaying these dolls in their houses (1603 to 1868). Although the dolls are often referred to as “Hina-bine” or “Hina dolls” in Japanese, they are also known as “Japanese dolls” or “Neko-manbo” (cat girl).
The girls dress up and bring flowers to their dolls in costumes. But unfortunately, a survey done in Japan in March 2020 revealed that the majority of participants did not observe Girl’s Day. Witnessing this auspicious day, which was specifically celebrated for girls, made me feel elated.
I have never witnessed a country commemorating the birth of a girl. I have a deeper love and respect for the nation as a result.
Elegantly dressed dolls are on par with any real girl, in terms of beauty. I adore the long legacy of embracing femininity in society.
Gion Matsuri of Kyoto is an ancient Japanese festival that has been celebrated for over 1,000 years, initiated at Yasaka Shrine (formerly known as Gion-Sha), where the event begins every year.
Its beginnings were traced all the way back to 869 when the Emperor ordered the holding of a festival to satisfy the gods and stop the epidemic. Since 970, it has been continuously held.
The Gion Matsuri festival is celebrated every year in July with a parade of floats, dancers, musicians, and people dressed in traditional robes. The parade starts at Yasaka Shrine and ends at Gion Shrine.
A local boy is selected to be the divine messenger to the gods during Gion Matsuri. Seated on one of the two floats, he will carry a sacred mirror and ring and visit each of the 88 shrines in Kyoto’s city limits.’
In order to honor Japan’s broad past and rich history, as well as to pray for peace and prosperity in the upcoming year, I glorify this event as it is observed.
This month-long celebration at the Yasaka Shrine, which has significant religious and historical value, is magnificent to witness. In 2009, UNESCO designated the procession as a cultural World Heritage event.
Firstly, I love seeing Japanese festivals, it’s amazing seeing all generations embracing their culture, I don’t get to see that often. This festival is another evidence of Japan’s diverse culture.
Kanda Matsuri, one of the most renowned and significant Shinto festivals in Tokyo, is held every two years in the month of May. During this time, the streets are swamped by over 200 mikoshi, a thousand or so competitors, and tens of thousands of spectators.
According to history, the event first appeared in 730, when Kanda Myojin Shrine was first constructed.
This celebration is conducted to commemorate the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasuom’s safe return from the battle
I was blown away by the attractions of the festival, including the elegant parade and powerful “mikoshi miyairi” event, where many mikoshis of different sizes are carried through the streets by many people.
In Japan, summer signifies Tenjin Festival. The grandest festival in Japan takes place on July 24 and 25. Due to its immense popularity, it draws more than a million spectators every year.
The Tenmangu Shrine celebrates Tenjin Matsuri in honor of its main deity, Sugawara Mivhizane, the deity of scholarship. Tenjin Masturi is considered one of the top three festivals in Japan.
During the Heian era, the imperial court dedicated a shrine to him in memory of the banished politician Sugawara Michizane. The anniversary of his death occurs on July 25, and he is revered as a deity of scholarship in Japan.
A parade of portable shrines is one of the highlights of Okasa’s spectacular Tenjin Matsuri, a summer celebration that is jam-packed with rituals, dance, and music.
A striking fireworks display marks the conclusion of the festivities.
Tenjin Matsuri is an annual festival celebrated in Osaka. Festival attendees march up and down the river in convoys while playing music.
The biggest memory I have is definitely participating in this celebration that is bigger than life.
The largest traditional dance festival in Japan. Awa Odori welcomes more than 1.3 million spectators each year. The Awa Dance Festival takes place from August 12 to August 15. The origin of the “Awa Odori” traditional Japanese dance style is in the Tokushima Prefecture.
The Japanese Buddhist festival known as the Bon, or “Festival of the dead,” in which the spirits of departed ancestors are invited to join their living family, is regarded as the origin of the festival. This technique has been performed for an extremely long period and is still prevalent today.
Countless dancers in traditional attire perform folk dance on the streets. There are many costumes and dances for both men and women.
The women’s dance is distinguished by graceful movements and vivid costumes that are topped by traditional conical sedge caps. Dancers begin to perform to the rhythm of taoko drums, shamisen, and shinobue flutes. They dress in Yukata, a summer kimono, and straw hats.
I got so enthusiastic that I started to dance like a dancer. Along with the dance, there were lots of food booths which I thoroughly enjoyed. As night falls, the dancing event becomes more captivating and engaging.
Nagasaki Lantern Festival
The Nagasaki Lantern Festival (長崎ランタンフェスティバル) is the biggest lantern festival in Japan, and one of the longest in the country.
The event marks the start of the Japanese festival calendar, and kicks off with 15 days of festivities to celebrate the Chinese New Year according to the Lunar calendar.
This year, the festival runs from 22nd Jan–5th Feb 2023. The entire city of Nagasaki is adorned with 15,000 colorful lanterns and lights, a tradition that dates back to when Chinese residents first moved to Nagasaki’s Chinatown.
Yuki Matsuri (Sapporo)
Hokkaido is renowned for its heavy snowfall throughout the winter season and is celebrated for its annual Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (さっぽろ雪まつり).
The snow festival began in 1950 (shortly after World War II) when local high school students built six snow sculptures.
This event has grown to become one of the most impressive snow and ice festivals in the world, attracting over two million visitors each year and featuring an international snow sculpture competition.
Everything from traditional snow sculptures, to snow slides and even illuminated ice sculptures are on display during this incredible and popular festival.
The winter festival offers many other exciting activities to enjoy too. Food lovers can savor a variety of local food and enjoy roaming ice bars.
Music also fills the atmosphere with live concerts playing every day throughout the festival.
The joy of snowball fights and ice-sledding around snow slides are two of my all-time favorite activities! And of course, who can forget about the nighttime wonders!
The illuminated snow and ice sculptures create a magical atmosphere that complete the experience. So put on your warmest clothes and make sure not to miss out on the festival of joy and fun!
The Yuki Matsuri will take place from 4 to 11 February 2023
Sanja Matsuri (Tokyo)
The Sanja Festival, or Asakusa Sanja Matsuri, is one of the three grandest Shinto festivals held in Tokyo each year.
It takes place over the course of three days on the third weekend of May, when the area around the revered Asakusa Shrine is taken over by locals and visitors alike, who come to experience the authentic Japanese festival atmosphere.
Boasting an attendance of over two million people over the three days, the Sanja Festival is often considered to be the largest and most vibrant event in the city.
Colorful parades, lively music and elaborate decorations create a festival atmosphere that is truly captivating – one that should not be missed!
To celebrate their historic discovery, the Hinokuma Hamanari, Hinokuma Takenari, and Hajino Nakatomo, who founded Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo in 645, established a festival in their honour.
According to legend, the brothers discovered a statue of Kannnon, the goddess of mercy in their fishing nets while fishing in the Sumida River in the year 628.
This became the impetus for the construction of Senso-ji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo.
Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori)
Nebuta Festival (ねぶた祭り) has to be one of the most incredible and dynamic festivals in Japan – taking place in Aomori Prefecture, it’s world renowned for its enormous and impressive floats called “Nebuta”, which have intricate designs depicting ancient and heroic warriors.
Nebuta Festival is one of the first images to come to mind when you think of Japanese festivals.
These glorious floats are accompanied by hundreds of dancers called “Haneto”, who follow the rhythm of Taiko drums and flutes, making the atmosphere truly alive.
This event is a must-see for anyone visiting Japan, as the sight of the boats, the mesmerizing music and the vibrant dances will leave you feeling truly inspired!
Japan, a land known for its celebrations, hosts a number of festivals all year around. It’s a country where culture is celebrated. One of the most exhilarating and greatest ways to explore Japanese culture and heritage is at a festival.
The festivals are the best time to witness Japan because of its most vibrant and exciting period. Festivals in Japan are usually celebrated with chanting, hand-made mikoshi (portable shrines), dancing, food, soulful music, and elaborate floats or mikoshi adorned with intricate embellishments.
Besides festivals, Japan has so much more to offer tourists-nature sites and historic sites. Cultures and traditions are celebrated along with seasonal delicacies, local foods, custom attire, and lovely people.
There are festivals for all different kinds of individuals, including ones for dancing, snow sculptures, tradition, dolls, water boats, music, and more. If you enjoy any of these activities, you must go to Japan. So when are you planning to travel to Japan?