With many national and regional festivals happening throughout the year, you will always have a chance to experience going to a Matsuri during your visit to Japan! Given how deeply spiritual Japan is, with a massive part of its culture and heritage revolving around Shinto and Buddhism, it is no surprise why matsuris are so significant and an important aspect of Japanese life.
Matsuris often occur on national holidays, cultural days, historical events and seasonal celebrations. You will see the procession of a Mikoshi, a portable Shinto shrine, through the streets as it is believed it is a way of carrying deities between main shrines.
As well as this, food stalls and festival game stalls are highly popular during matsuri. It is customary for street vendors to serve popular street food dishes such as yakisoba, takoyaki, yakitori, taiyaki and kakigori to name a few during the matsuri.
Here is a list of popular matsuri/festivals during each season:
- Ganjitsu: celebrate the Japanese new year nationwide by paying shrines a visit on the first day of the year.
- Setsubun: drive away last year’s bad fortunes and evil spirits for the year to come on 3rd February.
- Sapporo Snow Festival: see large snow, ice sculptures in Odori Park during early February.
- Yokote Kamakura Festival: view lantern lit snow houses in Akita during 15th - 16th February.
- Takayama Matsuri: watch the elaborate mikoshi parade through the old town of Takayama between 14th - 15th April.
- Aoi Matsuri: enjoy watching people parading through Kyoto wearing the garments of the Heian Period from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines on 15th May.
- Sanja Matsuri: the festival of Asakusa Shrine, one of Tokyo’s 3 biggest festivals, happens on the third full weekend in mid-May.
- Gion Matsuri: the July festival of Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto is ranked one of the best festivals in Japan.
- Tenjin Matsuri: watch the river procession of illuminated boats followed by a spectacular fireworks display in Osaka on 25th July.
- Nagasaki Kunchi: celebration of Nagasaki’s Suwa Shrine complete with ship-like mikoshi and dragons during early October.
- Jidai Matsuri: Kyoto’s grand historical parade celebrating over 1000 years of its history on 22nd October
Chichibu Yomatsuri: watch the parade of Chichibu’s Yatai floats in the evening of early December.