Festivals in Japan
Festivals in Japan are a highlight of any trip. Whether large or small, you are sure to see elaborate costumes, traditional floats, choreographed dancing, taiko drumming, food stands, and large crowds.
There is always a festival somewhere with local festivals happening throughout the year in small towns across Japan. The biggest and most popular festivals are held annually and not to be missed.
10 Extraordinary Festivals in Japan
(in chronological order, starting in January)
1. Sapporo Snow Festival – Sapporo, Hokkaido
The Sapporo Snow Festival or Yuki Matsuri is held every year in early February. More than two million visitors go to Sapporo to see the large snow and ice sculptures and to attend the festival events.
Photo by Chris Lewis / CC BY-NC
2. Yokote Kamakura Festival – Yokote, Akita
The Yokote Kamakura Festival is held February 15-16 every year in Yokote city. The 450-year old festival features hundreds of mini snow houses called Kamakura.
3. Omizutori – Nara
Omizutori, or Water Drawing Festival, takes place at Todaiji Temple in Nara from March 1-14. It features the nightly burning of 10 giant torches of up to six meters long. The main event is on March 12 when there are 11 torches, each up to eight meters long.
Photo by Vintage Lulu / CC BY-NC-ND
4. Takayama Matsuri – Takayama, Gifu
Takayama Matsuri is held twice a year in Takayama city in Gifu prefecture, April 14-15 and October 9-10. The festival features large floats that are pulled throughout the city.
5. Sanja Matsuri – Asakusa, Tokyo
Sanja Matsuri is held on the third weekend in May at Asakusa Shrine in Tokyo. Around 100 portable shrines called mikoshi are carried through the streets to bring good luck to the people in the local area.
Photo by Sara P / CC BY-NC-ND
6. Hakata Gion Yamakasa – Hakata, Fukuoka
Hakata Gion Yamakasa is held in Fukuoka from July 1-15 with a spectacular grand finale on the morning of the 15th. Around 5:00 am, seven neighborhoods compete in a race pulling giant floats weighing more than a ton along the streets for five kilometers.
7. Gion Matsuri – Kyoto
Gion Matsuri is held at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto every year in July. It dates back to the 9th century and is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. The parade on July 17 features floats over 20 meters tall.
8. Tenjin Matsuri – Osaka
Tenjin Matsuri, dating back to the 10th century, takes place at Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka on July 25. There is a parade on the streets, a river procession, and a fireworks display.
9. Awa Odori – Tokushima
Awa Odori is held during the Obon season from August 12-15. It is a famous festival with traditional dancing in summer kimonos called yukata.
Photo by Kojihachisu / CC BY-NC-ND
10. Chichibu Yomatsuri – Chichibu, Saitama
Chichibu Yomatsuri, or Night Festival, is held on December 2-3 in Saitama prefecture. It features six large floats that parade along the streets on the evening of December 3rd and a very long, 2 1/2 hour fireworks display.
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Becki and Shawn
Japan Travel Specialists
Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.
We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!