It’s not known exactly how many Japanese festivals (matsuri) are held each year. I think, there are more than 300,000 traditional “matsuri”, which means festival in Japanese, and they are very different from area to area.
By the way,
What is the significance of festivals for the Japanese?
“Matsu”, the original meaning of the word matsuri (festivals) in Japanese, means “to welcome the invisible to a place where they became visible.”
In other words, gods, who are usually invisible, visit during festivals, and are welcomed by the people. Japanese festivals handed down from ancient times are basically celebrated to bring about communication between gods and people.
Among the myriads of gods, however, there are some that bring about diseases and natural disasters, so festivals are also set up to ward off evil gods.
There are approximately 190,000 temples and shrines in Japan. Most of them hold at least one festival every year. Some shrines hold up to 70 festivals a year. There are also national and local festivals.
Japanese festivals provide an opportunity to interact with the locals and to participate in the lighthearted side of Japanese culture.
Japan has religious festivals, fire festivals, dance festivals, snow festivals, music festivals and performance festivals. The following list represents many of the biggest and best festivals Japan has to offer.
If you can attend, you will be amazed by the participants’ power and passion!
🔴 Sapporo, Hokkaido (Mid June)《Read more》
The Sapporo Yosakoi Soran Matsuri is Japan’s largest Yosakoi dance festival. It features 350 teams with around 35,000 dancers and attracts 1 million spectators.
🔴 Kyoto (July)《Read more》
The Gion Festival takes place annually in Kyoto and is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. It goes for the entire month of July. It’s a month long event that peaks with parades of large floats on July 17th and July 24th.
🔴 Fukuoka prefecture (Mid July)《Read more》
The first Yamakasa festival took place in the 13th century. There was a terrible plague in 1241 — mikoshi were carried through the streets of Fukuoka to purify the city.
The modern festival is a two week event that features a mikoshi race. Teams from different neighbourhoods practice racing through the streets with mikoshi weighing 1000 kilograms (2200 pounds) for over a week before the big event.
Only men are allowed to carry the mikoshi. Participants wear traditional loincloths (shimekomi) marked with the emblem of their team — they take pride in these uniforms. Shimekomi are considered formal wear and can be worn to weddings and funerals (only during the festival).
🔴 Osaka (late in July)《Read more》
The Tenjin Matsuri is a large two day festival in Osaka that features a procession of 100 boats. The boats are filled with celebrants adorned in the costumes of an ancient imperial court.
In the evening large bonfires are lit aboard the boats. Such fires were once used to illuminate waterways by river patrols.
🔴 Niigata prefecture (late in July)《Read more》
An annual 3 day music festival held at Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture. Fuji Rock features around 200 performers and attracts 100,000 people each year. Headliners are often top international rock bands.
Fuji was Japan’s first outdoor rock festival. The first year of the festival (1997) was a bit of a disaster. The festival was struck by a typhoon. Musicians such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers played right through the storm but eventually organizers cancelled the second day of the festival.
The second day turned out to be sunny. Despite a rough start, the festival has become a success that ranks as a legendary event.
🔴 Fukushima prefecture (late in July)《Read more》
A reenactment of a 1,000 year old battle held at the end of July in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture.
In 2011, about 1,500 residents of Minamisoma lost their lives in the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. The continuation of the festival is important to local residents as a step in rebuilding the community.
🔴 Aichi prefecture (late July 〜 early August)《Read more》
A two day international cosplay competition in Nagoya. The event is unique because it only invites the top cosplayers from competing countries. Around 12,000 spectators attend. The event is growing each year.
🔴 Hiroshima Prefecture (August 6)《Read more》
An annual event on the anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing (August 6) at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Local residents, families of the victims and international visitors gather to remember those who were lost and pray for World peace.
Floating lanterns with messages of peace and remembrance are released in the river in front of the park.
🔴 Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture (August 6〜 8)《Read more》
Tanabata is a star festival celebrated throughout Japan. According to legend, the stars Vega and Altair are lovers who are separated all year by the expanse of the Milky Way. They are only reunited once a year (July 7th or August 7th depending on the region).
Tanabata has been celebrated for more than 2000 years in China and Japan. In Japan, people write their wishes on bright strips of paper and hang them outside from bamboo branches.
It’s hoped that wishes will be granted by the same celestial forces that reunite these famous lovers of Chinese myth.The biggest Tanabata festival is the Sendai Tanabata festival in Sendai city. It attracts about 2 million visitors each year.
🔴 Akita Prefecture (early in August)《Read more》
The Kanto Matsuri is a pole lantern festival in Akita City. Participants balance massive 12 meter (40 foot) , tall lantern poles on their palms, foreheads, etc.
These poles weight around 60 kilograms (130 pounds) . The lanterns are lit by candles. It’s something to see.
🔴 Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture (early in August)《Read more》
A two night fireworks festival in the city of Nagaoka in Niigata prefecture.
It’s one of Japan’s best fireworks shows. It’s known for its use of unusually large 300 kilogram (660 pound) shells that create bursts 700 meters (almost half a mile) in diameter.
🔴 Aomori Prefecture (early in August)《Read more》
The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is a Japanese summer festival that takes place in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. The festival attracts the most tourists of any of the country’s nebuta festivals, and is counted among the three largest festivals in the Tohoku region.
“Nebuta” refers to the float of a brave warrior-figure which is carried through the center of the city, while dancers wearing a unique type of costume called haneto (ハネト) dance around in time with the chant Rasserā (ラッセラー) (shorten dialectal version of “irasshai”, calling visitors and customers to watch or join).
🔴 Tokushima Prefecture (Mid August)《Read more》
Awa Odori is a huge city-wide dance party in Tokushima City, Shikoku Island that attracts 1.3 million tourists each year. Participants wear colorful costumes, dance and play shamisens, gongs, taiko drums and flutes.
The festival is part of the region’s Obon Festivities. It features synchronized traditional dances for men and women. There are different dances for day and night. The daytime dance (Nagashi) is restrained and elegant.
The nighttime dance (Zomeki) is frenzied and energetic. Spectators are encouraged to join.
🔴 Kyoto (Mid August)《Read more》
Gozan no Okuribi , more commonly known as Daimonji, is a festival in Kyoto, Japan. It is the culmination of the Obon festival on August 16, in which five giant bonfires are lit on mountains surrounding the city.
🔴 Chiba Prefecture (Mid August)《Read more》
Summer Sonic is a two day music festival in Tokyo and Osaka. Acts usually play Tokyo one day and then Osaka the next or vice versa. Summer Sonic features top international and Japanese artists.
🔴 Tokyo (late in August)《Read more》
Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s oldest and most conservative neighborhoods. It’s also home to Tokyo’s most vibrant and international festival — the Asakusa Samba Matsuri.
The winning team of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is invited to perform at the festival. Local samba teams also perform. Japan and Brazil have strong ties.
🔴 Akita Prefecture (late August)《Read more》
A unique competition between Japan’s top fireworks craftsmen. The fireworks in the show are custom made by the contestants. There are three categories in the competition: day fireworks, standard 12-inch round shell fireworks and creative fireworks.
The creative category is most popular with the crowd — the show often features cutting edge fireworks that you can’t see anywhere else. The festival draws about 650,000 spectators. That’s a big crowd for Omagari (a town of 40,000 residents in Akita prefecture).