Japan is not only the 3rd biggest economy in the world but also has been well-known for long as “sunrise country” in the East, “land of cherry blossom”. Many people think of Japan first when talk about Asia as if Japan is the symbol of Asia. It’s entirely easily understandable because this country has a very special and diversed culture, and the people are so diligent and admirable.
In Japan, like almost other countries, there are four seasons each year. Each season has its own traditional customs and festivals, some of them have existed for so long time and some have mordern origins. Japanese people celebrate various festivals every year and they call them “matsuri”. Most festivals are held annually, some happen only a few days but some last even a few weeks.
There are also national and local festivals. Taking part in Japanese festivals is an opportunity for you to interact with the local residents, integrate into the lighthearted side of Japanese culture and enjoy the funny, memorable atmosphere. Festivals range from quiet and peaceful to wild and bustling.
Let’s discover some big festivals in Japan through time sequence in the year to see their diversity, uniqueness and interest.
New Year O-shogatsu (New Year Festival)
It is the biggest festival in Japan. At midnight of December 31st, the whole family gather and eat Udon noodles as it is an expression of long life. On 1st January, a hearty special breakfast is prepared for everyone. People wear kimono or the most beautiful clothes and visit monasteries or temple to pray for a new year with good health and happiness.
New Year in Japan is beautiful and has still not lost its tradition although the Japaneses celebrate it according to the West’s calendar (not like almost countries in Asia with lunar new year fes). Japanese new year begins with the 108-beaten bell in the Eve. Japanese people also have a traditional habit of watching the sun rise on the first day of the new year, one who sees the first light of the sun will have good luck in the all year.
Festival Setsunbun (Bean Throwing Festival)
3rd – 4th February: People often throw soybeans around the house to prevent bad luck, scare away devils and invite luck god into the house.
Yuki Matsuri (Snow festival)
The Snow Festival is held during one first week every February in Hokkaido’s capital, Sapporo.
This is the most famous snow festival in Japan and the most popular winter event with many masterpieces of snow and ice sculpture giant.
Saidaiji Hadaka (Nude fesival)
Held in the last Saturday of February every year, thousands of men across the country to gather in Saidaiji temple area to participate in this extremely unique fes.
Despite being called nude festival, actually the participants still wear a little white loincloth called Fundoshi and socks. They compete to grab two sacred wooden bars, who get them first will be lucky all year.
Hina Matsuri (Festival of the girls or Doll Festival)
It is held on 3rd March. On this day, families with daughters display a doll (Hinaningyo) representing ancient imperial and drink a sweet white sa-ke. At school, girls are taught how to make Hina dolls with paper.
Cherry blossom festival in Osaka
Approximately the time between March and April is cherry blossom season, and the Japanese chose the period from 15/3 to 15/4 as “Cherry Festival”. It’s very very beautiful sight and a must-see view if you set foot in Japan.
Sumo-scaring children fes
True to its name, in the festival fat monks or sumo are tasked with holding the baby in their arms and make them to cry the louder the better.
Amazingly, mothers do not seem too worried about it and are willing to take their babies to the sumo. There are many different theories about this strange festival, but in fact it’s very funny
The festival is usually held at Sensoji Temple, in the early April.
Kodomo no hi (Children’s festival)
This festival is celebrated on the 5th May and from 1948 became the national holiday. On this day, families with sons hang many colorful carp flags (konobori) in front of the door, and eat a special cake made from rice.
The Aoi festival
The Aoi Matsuri is one of Kyoto’s three most famous festivals (along with the Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri) and takes place every May 15. The festival’s main attraction is a large parade in Kyoto, in which over 500 people dressed in the aristocratic style of the Heian Period (794-1185) walk from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines.
Lễ hội Hakata Gion Yamakasa
Hakata Gion Yamakasa is one of the most interesting festivals in Japan, held every summer from July 1 to 15 at Kushida shrine in the city of Fukuoka, Kyushu.
This festival has a long history of over 750 years and climaxes with a spectacular time trial race. In the race, seven neighborhoods of Fukuoka’s Hakata district compete in pushing beautifully decorated festival floats along a five kilometer long course through the city.
Bon Odori – Traditional Dance Festival in Japan
Bon Odori Festival is held on July 15 at the Lunar calendar and is imbued traditional values of national culture. The descendents gathered signaling to ancestors and the people who attended the occasion dances in colorful crowd.
Kanto matsuri (Japanese Lantern Festival)
The lantern festival takes place annual fall. The Japanese believe that the Lantern Festival will pray for the departed soul salvation. It is the focal point event during the early August in Tokyo.
In November, people in Kawasaki city are jubilant celebrating Kanamara festival – a rare occasion to honor the values of… penis.
A giant statue carved from wood is mobilized by more than a dozen of “muscular girls”. In two roadside, numerous kinds of toys, souvenirs and pictures of penis are sold openly.
Kanamara Matsuri been nominated as the most bizarre festival in Japan.