8 festivals to celebrate in Japan

8 fall festivals in Japan

8 Fall Festivals in Japan

8 fall festivals in Japan

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Japan knows how to throw a party, no matter the season. These eight fall festivals from around the country include wild street races, historic costume parades and gourmet street food that will satisfy even the most important connoisseur.

Kichijoji Fall Festival, early September

On the second weekend in September, thousands of people flock from all over Tokyo to the neighborhood of Kichijoji. There, the Shinto shrine of Musashino Hachimangu welcomes the coming autumn by carrying mikoshi through the city amidst a bustling street festival in the temple.


Kishawada Danjiri Matsuri, mid-September

While danjiri matsuri, or float festivals, are celebrated across the country, Osaka is considered the most high-octane of them all. Initially carved wooden floats in the shape of shrines and temples are mounted on carts pulled by ropes through the city. In the city of Kishawada, Osaka, teams pull their danjiri carts as quickly as possible, and the team leader stands on top of the float, cheering them on while the cart stands dangerously through the streets and corners. The Japanese equivalent of Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls, this is an event that results in many injuries per year and even accidental casualties. See it at your own risk!


Fall Celebration in Sapporo, through September

Autumn is considered the season of hearty appetites in Japan, and there’s no better place to enjoy it than in Sapporo. Hokkaido’s largest food festival features an array of gourmet items, including local farm produce, fresh seafood and delicious wine and sake. The festival has several themed areas, each with its own unique atmosphere, vendors and food.


Nagasaki Kunchi Festival in early October

Nagasaki Prefecture’s most famous festival, the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival, takes place around October 7-9 every year. The celebration includes a mix of Dutch and Chinese traditions, as both countries have had a huge cultural impact on the region, going back to the early days of Japan’s foreign trade. Look for colorful holiday floats resembling European ships and a sharp performance of “Ja Odori,” also known as the dragon or snake dance.


Hachiman Matsuri, early October

The mountain village of Takayamaa boasts one of the three most beautiful festivals in all of Japan, known as Hachiman Matsuri. This fall festival features magnificent gilded floats that line several stories above the crowds. The massive floats feature karakuri dolls, traditional puppets that are automated for a short stage and decorated with hundreds of paper lanterns.


Fall Grand Festival, mid-October

Shuki Taisai, the Fall Grand Festival, is the largest festival in the Nikko area. Enjoy demonstrations of target shooters on horseback and a parade of 1,000 samurai warriors. The rituals showcase 17th century Japan and the traditional rituals performed for Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan’s first Shogun, who is enshrined in Nikko.


Jidai Matsuri and the Kurama Fire Festival in late October

On October 22 each year, Jidai Matsuri, one of the three great Kyoto festivals, is held. Historic costume from the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Heian-jinggu, the parade is an opportunity to see both locals and geiko, Kyoto’s very own, dressed in ancient clothing from the 8th to 20th centuries. After catching the parade costume during the day, hop on the train to the nearby mountain village of Kurama for the excitement of the Kurama Fire Festival in the evening.

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Kamiari Festival, November.

All the gods are throwing a party and you are invited to the Kamiyari Festival held at the Great Temple of Izumo. According to Shinto beliefs, all Japanese kami themselves, or deities, gather at the temple once a year, at which time people flock to Izumo, hoping that their prayers will be answered. The festival takes place from the 10th-17th of the 10th month based on the old lunar calendar, so the dates vary from year to year, but usually fall in November.

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It’s the season of taiko sounds, evening food stalls, yukata, and goldfish games: yes, it’s matsuri time!

Summer in Japan brings many creative things to help you endure the hot weather – watermelon and soda, kakigori, mattia, dancing and yukata to name a few. But there is only one place where you can enjoy them in true Japanese fashion – the summer matsuri night, which beckons tourists who decide to go on vacation in Japan for June, July or August.

While there are many unique festivals throughout the country, here are our top ten festivals in Tokyo and other parts of Japan! Stop waiting, it’s time to buy a tour to Japan and get into the spirit of matsuri!

Sumida River Fireworks Festival (Tokyo)

Rumor has it that the first festival was held in 1733. The Sumida River Fireworks Festival is one of the most popular (and crowded) summer festivals in Tokyo. With nearly four centuries of history, it survived the Meiji Restoration and continued to be held until the World Wars. The festival was restored in 1977, and in 2017 it celebrated its 40th anniversary in its current form. Visitors will see a spectacular spectacle of 22,000 fireworks, but be prepared – almost a million people attended this event last year, so expect large crowds of tourists!

When: July 29, 2021, 7:05 pm – 8:30 pm;

Where: Sumida River, Sumida-ku, Tokyo;

How to get there: The nearest station to the 1st venue is Asakusa or Honjo-Azumabashi, the nearest station to the 2nd venue is Kuramae or Ryugoku.

Shukatsu Festival – Funeral Rehearsal

The Japanese have a special attitude toward death. They prefer to look it in the face and are not afraid of its onset. Therefore, the country has a festival shukatsu – a festival where they rehearse their own funeral. It takes place in the capital, Tokyo. It looks like a huge exhibition of funeral goods, with dozens of funeral agencies participating.

Anyone attending the event can try on the clothes in which they will go to their final destination, pick out a casket, and even do a trial last haircut. They enjoy taking their own photos and expressing their preferences to their loved ones about purchasing one item or another. Not everyone in the country has the opportunity to go to the capital, so many treat the holiday with interest and dream of getting to the center of the events.

Shinjuku Eisa Matsuri (Tokyo)

Born on the island of tinsuko and brown sugar, Okinawa’s dance and music culture has always been different from that of the mainland, and Eisa Matsuri is no exception. Traditional costumes, drums, and dancing would look and sound different. The origin of the name is unknown, but there is a theory that it came from an exclamation used in Ace’s original song, “ensaa.” This year will mark the event’s 44th anniversary, and organizers expect about a million people to join in the general fun!

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When: July 29, 2021, 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm;

Where: Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo;

How to get there: West exit of Shinjuku Station.

Constitution Day.

Since 1948, the third of May is the official holiday when Constitution Day is celebrated.

After the defeat in World War II, the Japanese authorities were forced to change the country and accept the terms of the victorious countries. Thus in 1947 the sovereignty of the Japanese inhabitants was recognized, the country became parliamentary, and the great Emperor became a “symbol”.

Japanese holidays and traditions often date back to ancient times, but Constitution Day is relatively new; it allowed Japan to begin its development after the defeat and become one of the most influential countries in the world.

Fukagawa Matsuri (Tokyo)

The Fukagawa Festival, officially known as Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri, is one of the three great festivals of Edo along with Kanda Matsuri and Sanno Matsuri. The Fukagawa Festival is held at the ancient Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine in the Koto district. Since 1642, the festival has featured a procession of mikoshi (portable shrines).The 120 mikoshi are carried through local streets while spectators spray water on the participants.

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When: August 11-15, 2021, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m;

Where: Tomioka Hachimangu, 1-20-3 Tomioka, Koto-ku, Tokyo;

How to get there: Monzen-nakatyo Station, Exit 1.

National Holidays

– New Year’s Day 2nd Monday of January – Majority Day February 11 – Founding Day March 21 (March 20 in leap years) – Vernal Equinox Day April 29 – Green Day May 3 – Constitution Day May 5 – Children’s Day 3rd Monday of July – Maritime Day 3rd Monday of September – Senior Citizens Appreciation Day September 23 (or 24) – Autumn Equinox Day 2nd Monday of October – Health and Sports Day November 3 – Culture Day November 23 – Labor Day December 23 – Birthday of the Emperor

Adzabu-Juban Matsuri

This festival is officially known as Azzabu-Juban Norio Matsuri. “Norio” translates as “summer nights,” according to many dictionaries, but upon deeper examination, the more correct definition is “avoiding the heat and finding coolness.” The 300,000 participants of this “trendy” festival (most of whom are young people) gather here for the sole purpose of eating. Stalls sell regional dishes from all over Japan, from the northern island of Hokkaido to southern Okinawa. Bon Dance in the evening is also a must-see event for travelers planning a summer vacation to Japan.

When: August 26-27, 2021, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m;

Where: Minato-ku, Tokyo, Adzabu-Juban shopping district;

How to get there: Adzabu-Juban Station, Exit 4.

Kanamara-matsuri – phallic festival

Surprisingly, kanamara matsuri, or phallic festival, is directly related to the Japanese faith, Shintoism. It represents the belief that all elements of nature are filled with life and that good and evil spirits live in them. The worship of them has a long history.

There are two theories of the origin of the festival. According to one of them, a goddess, in whose vagina a monster settled, biting off the genitals of her men and preventing her from having a child, turned to a blacksmith. He created a penis of steel for her, with which she chased the demon away. Another theory has it that it is a festival of fertility and procreation. The festival has been held since the 17th century and lasts a week. It was first held by courtesans who fought for their rights.

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The main day is the first Sunday of the fourth month of the year – it is marked by a procession around three huge phalluses – pink, black and beige. Each participant of the festival wants to touch at least one penis – it is believed to be for healthy children in the family.

Koenji Awa Odori (Tokyo)

Originating in Tokyo some 56 years ago, this festival is now considered one of Tokyo’s largest and most famous summer events of its kind. Ten thousand dancers pass through the streets of Koenji, making it possible for the small neighborhood to attract about a million visitors each year. It’s crowded, but the experience of such unbridled fun is priceless!

When: August 26-27, 2021, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m;

Where: Sugunami-ku, Tokyo, Koenjiminami 2nd, 3rd & 4th chome, Koenjikita 2nd & 3rd t;ome

How to get there: Koenji Station.

Heso-matsuri – bellydance festival

A festival dedicated to dancing bellybuttons started about 50 years ago in Furano (according to the joking idea of the festival, he is the “bellybutton of Hokkaido Island”). The first year it was not very successful – there were fewer than two dozen participants. Now Heso-matsuri has thousands of followers.

To participate in the festival, you have to paint your belly (the belly button is the mouth), buy pants with the arms on the sides and cover your face with a big hat. You can learn simple dance steps on the street during the parade. The Japanese from early morning gather in the square and begin a cheerful and colorful procession. This is one of the favorite holidays of children, who, along with their parents participate in it. Heso-matsuri is held in July, at the end of the month.

Soma Nomaoi (Fukushima)

The Soma region of Fukushima Prefecture, famous for its horse breeding, holds the annual Soma Namaoi 1,000-year festival. It is organized by three different shrines in the area-Ota, Odaka, and Nakamura. The highlight of this festival is a reenactment of a battle scene from Japan’s turbulent Sengoku period. Clad in heavy armor and holding katana swords, several hundred samurai horsemen engage in battle to capture 40 sacred flags.

When: July 29-31, 2017;

Where: Nomaoi Gyuretsu and Hibarigahara Field, Soma, Fukushima;

How to get there: JR Haranomachi Station.

Akutai-matsuri – the festival of curses

In many cultures, cursing has long been a way of warding off evil spirits. In Japan, the okutai-matsuri festival is dedicated to this. It takes place in Kyoto, on Mount Atago, and is dedicated to the goddess Izanami, who is responsible for death. It is celebrated before New Year’s Day, on the penultimate Sunday of the 12th month.

Temple attendants dressed in demon costumes slowly march past the gathering, who hurl curses and swear words at them and snatch ritual tortillas out of their hands. Despite the negative remarks, the Japanese are energized, feeling energized and deprived of worry and misery. During swearing, the Japanese free themselves of negativity, entering the new year calm and peaceful. At the end of the festival, everyone drinks wine and makes wishes.

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Aomori Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori)

Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, or simply Aomori Nebuta, is one of the three largest festivals in the Tohoku region. The word “nebuta” refers to giant paper platforms made in the shape of terrible warriors. According to legend, the warlord Sakanoue no Tamuramaro placed giant lanterns depicting warriors and monsters on top of the hills to frighten the enemy army. At festivals nowadays, dancers wear a unique outfit (which can be described as a kimono with a fruit basket instead of a headdress) called “haneto,” and summon “rassera,” performing wild dances around the platforms. One of the largest in the country, this matsuri should be on the list of must-see festivals for travelers who buy tours to Japan in the summer.

When: August 2-7, 2021, 7:10-9 p.m. (August 2-6), 1 p.m.-3 p.m. and 7:15-9 p.m. (August 7);

Where: Aomori City Hall;

How to get there: JR Aomori Station.

Hadaka-matsuri – Naked Festival

The Naked Festival in Japan is timed to coincide with the New Year. Only men participate, as the Japanese mentality does not allow women to show their bodies. Men completely undress and cover their genitals with a cloth tied around their waist. In the modern holiday there is no special mystery and meaning, but for a long time it was believed that the participants are waiting for success and prosperity.

From the history of the holiday: It used to be a tradition during hadaka-matsuri to touch pieces of paper that were thrown at the processionists. Now, instead of pieces of paper, sticks made of wood are thrown around. The festival is very popular, during the ceremony begins to crush, so drunk people are not allowed there, the participation of women and children is prohibited. It is interesting to watch from the side, as almost completely naked men are having fun, like little children.

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri (Miyagi)

Tanabata, literally meaning “the evening of the seventh,” comes from the Chinese festival Qishi, which celebrates the annual meeting of a young shepherd and a weaver girl, known in Japan as Orihime and Hikoboshi. While Tanabata festivals are celebrated throughout Japan, the Sendai Tanabata Festival is the most popular, with nearly two million tourists flocking to see thousands of wish cards decorating bamboo trees. It’s a breathtaking spectacle and a great way to have a bright and fulfilling vacation in Japan!

When: August 6-8, 2021, 10:00-22:00 pm (August 6-7), 10:00-21:00 pm (August 8). Fireworks on August 5, 2021 7:00pm-8:30pm;

Where: Kotodai Park (Central Sendai and nearby shopping districts);

How to get there: JR Sendai Station.

Cherry Blossom Festival.

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan is one of the most ancient and revered celebrations. The date of celebration is different each year. The official day the trees begin to bloom is the appearance of the first flower on the sakura at the Yasukuni Buddhist Temple, located in Tokyo. On this day, the weather services broadcast a nationwide message that the blossoms have begun.

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However, the sakura festival in Japan is not an official event. No weekends or the like are defined for this period, but this does not prevent Japanese people and tourists themselves from stopping and admiring the beautiful trees.

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Kyoto Gozan Okuribi (Kyoto)

Gozan no Okuribi (literally “five mountain farewell lights”), or better known in Kyoto as Daimonji is the summer equivalent of Halloween. During the festival, families in Japan prepare their homes to welcome the spirits of their ancestors, and on the third day they light giant ritual fires around Kyoto city in the shape of five Chinese characters – Daimonji (“great” or “great”), Muo-Ho (“wonderful dharma” referring to Buddhist teachings), Funagata (“boat shape”), Hidari Daimonji (“big left”) and Toriyagata (“shaped as a sanctuary gate”). A trip to Japan this summer should include a visit to this spectacular event, which attracts millions of tourists each year.

When: Aug. 16, 2021, 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m;

Where: Kyoto Central, panoramic views from Funaokayama Park;

Popular locations: Daimonji: along the eastern bank of the Kamo River (Marutamachi Bridge – Misono Bridge); Muo-Ho: near Notre Dame Women’s College; Funagata: near Kitayama Station (northwest of Kitayama Bridge); Hidari Daimonji: near Nishioji Station (Saine Station – Kinkaku-ji Temple); Toriyigata: Saga Arashiyama District.

Wakakusa yamayaki festival – burning the mountain

One of the strangest and most spectacular festivals in Japan is the wakakusa yamayaki. It involves burning Mount Wakakusa (formerly a volcano), which is located between two major temples – Buddhist and Shinto. The festival has two theories of origin:

  1. The mountain was set on fire to reconcile the temples with each other.
  2. The burning of the mountain was held to exterminate insect pests.

At the end of January, a procession of several hundred people with torches walk to the foot of the mountain and set it on fire. The burning of the mountain is a shocking spectacle that symbolizes the birth of new life – new grass grows after a while in place of the burnt grass. Many participants do not leave the place of celebration until the mountain is extinguished.

Traditions in Japan may seem strange, but they are worthy of respect and attention. The Japanese themselves are so passionate about them that they start preparing months in advance.

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Mother’s Day

Japan’s traditional holidays include Mother’s Day. On May 10th, every Japanese family congratulates mothers. In recent years, though, the holiday has become just a way to sell more gifts for dear mothers.

The week before the holiday in Japan, so-called gifts for mothers are put up for sale: aprons, bags, dresses, purses, cosmetics, perfume, etc. There are commercials on TV for brands offering discounts and gifts.

But regardless, all Japanese people honor mothers. They believe that mothers are the center of every family and society as a whole.

Children’s Day

Children’s Day, or the so-called Boys’ Day in Japan, is celebrated on May fifth. Flags with koi nobori, carp, are developed all over the country.

According to an ancient legend, the koi carp, living in a deep marshy pond, was able to overcome all obstacles and crossed the “Dragon Whirlpool” waterfall. After that, he changed: a simple carp became a dragon and ascended into the distant heavens.

It is for strength and fortitude that the image of the carp is used in celebration. So the boy should follow the example of the fish and turn into a real man.

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