Ten of the most famous festivals in Japan! Enjoy the exciting physical sensations of Japan’s tradition by getting into the spirit with the locals!
- Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo
- Takayama Matsuri in Gifu Prefecture
- Aomori Nebuta Festival (Aomori Prefecture)
- Gion Matsuri (Kyoto)
- Tokushima City Awa Odori (Tokushima Prefecture)
- Sendai Tanabata Festival (Miyagi Prefecture)
- Okinawa Zento Eisa Festival in Okinawa Prefecture
- Karatsu Kunchi in Saga Prefecture
- Sapporo Yuki Matsuri in Hokkaido
- Nagasaki Lantern Festival in Nagasaki Prefecture
There are various festivals all over Japan. Many festivals are traditional ones with long histories and have different characteristics according to the region. If you are planning to visit Japan, make sure to make a schedule such that you have time to enjoy festivals in Japan! We introduce ten of the most famous festivals in Japan by season.
Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo
Kanda Matsuri festival is considered to be one of the Big Three Traditional Festivals of Japan. During the festival, the Kanda and Nihonbashi areas are really filled with excitement.
The main events of the festival are the big parade with several thousand people in traditional costumes and 200 gorgeous portable shrines that are carried around from morning through evening, accompanied by large shouts of encouragement.
Another feature of the festival is an “onna mikoshi” portable shrine, which is carried by women only.
The festival is held once every two years and the next one is scheduled to be held in 2025.
Period of the festival: May 2025
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Takayama Matsuri in Gifu Prefecture
“Takayama Matsuri” is a generic term used to refer to “Sanno Matsuri” in April and “Hachiman Matsuri” in October, which are both held in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture. The festival has a long history of more than 300 years. “Takayama Matsuri” is considered to be one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan. The gorgeous main dashi (yatai) floats have been designated as a national important cultural property, and it is also registered on the UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage as “Takayama Matsuri no Yatai Gyoji (Yatai event of Takayama Matsuri).”
Other highlights of the festival are a grand parade with people in ancient costumes and karakuri-ningyo dolls, which move around as if they are alive.
Dates of the festivals: April 14 and 15 (Sanno Matsuri) and October 9 and 10 (Hachiman Matsuri) every year.
Aomori Nebuta Festival (Aomori Prefecture)
Dubbed one of Tohoku’s Three Great Festivals, this festival attracts over 2.2 million visitors every year. Dancers called “haneto” dance surrounding “nebuta” (immense, human-shaped lantern floats) with shouts and parade the streets, which looks dynamic and energetic. You can even rent out a costume and participate in the event as one of the haneto.
Event date: August 2–7, 2023 (Same schedule each year)
Gion Matsuri (Kyoto)
Over a thousand years old, the Gion Matsuri hosts a month of various festivities at Kyoto’s Yasaka Shrine from July 1 to 31. Among them, the “Yamahoko Junko” float processions on July 17 (first procession) and July 24 (second procession) are a must-see. You’ll witness over thirty dazzling Yamahoko floats weighing up to 12 tons parade around the city of Kyoto.
Event date: July 1–31, 2023 (Same schedule each year)
Tokushima City Awa Odori (Tokushima Prefecture)
Awa Odori is a traditional dance originating in Tokushima Prefecture centuries ago and now enjoyed in various regions throughout Japan. As the birthplace of the festival, Tokushima City’s Awa Odori attracts over a million visitors from around Japan and abroad. During the period of time of the festival, the city center is full of a festival spirit. If you want to dance for yourself, join “niwaka-ren,” groups which allows drop-in participation!
Event date: August 12–15, 2023 (Same schedule each year)
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Sendai Tanabata Festival (Miyagi Prefecture)
This festival is another one of Tohoku’s Three Great Festivals. While Tanabata is celebrated on July 7, the Sendai Tanabata Festival is held from August 6 to 8, with the middle day of the festival falling exactly a month after July 7, according to the traditional lunar calendar. Tanabata decorations made from traditional washi paper will fill the entire city. Every year, over two million visitors come to see and enjoy of these kaleidoscopic ornamentations.
Event date: August 6–8, 2023(Same schedule each year)
Okinawa Zento Eisa Festival in Okinawa Prefecture
This is a festival for “eisa,” a traditional dance of Okinawa, where selected dancers from all over Japan gather. Walking in formation, the dancers sing and dance eisa, each holding a big Japanese drum. The dynamic dancing of eisa is overwhelming for everyone who sees it. It is Okinawa’s unique festival, where all the participants, including the audience, can have an uplifting experience of becoming one at heart with all the people across the venue.
Dates of the festival: September 8-10, 2023 (tentative)
Karatsu Kunchi in Saga Prefecture
“Karatsu Kunchi” is an annual autumn festival of Karatsu Shrine, which is held November 2-4 every year, for showing gratitude for the harvest. It is also registered on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural properties. The festival features 14 huge, gorgeous dashi (hikiyama) floats, most of which have traditional motifs of kabuto, a traditional Japanese helmet, as well as shishi lions. On the last day, many people parade through the town with loud rallying cries of “en’ya, en-’ya” and “yoi-sa, yoi-sa.”
After sunset, the lanterns are lit, creating a mesmerizing view.
Dates of the festival: November 2-4 every year.
Sapporo Yuki Matsuri in Hokkaido
“Sapporo Yuki Matsuri “is a great winter event in Japan, which attracts more than two million visitors from Japan and other countries every year. At various venues, including Odori Park, snow statues of various sizes are displayed. The high-quality snow statues, including ones incorporating the trend of the year and large-scale statues of over 15 meters in height, are really overwhelming!
There are also other events children can enjoy, such as a slide made out of snow and projection mapping.
Period of the festival: February 4-11, 2024
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Nagasaki Lantern Festival in Nagasaki Prefecture
“Nagasaki Lantern Festival” has its main sites in the city, including Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown, decorated with 15,000 lanterns. This festival started as an event to celebrate the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) in Chinatown. Every aspect of the view of the large-scale objets d’art of many colors along with lanterns filling the space above people’s heads is just instagrammable! Each venue has a different atmosphere, so those who come will never feel jaded.
“Emperor’s Parade” comprises about 150 people in gorgeous Chinese costumes going around the area.
Festival period: February 10-24, 2024