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Sapporo White Illumination

Along with the Sapporo Snow Festival, this artistic light display has become a well known reminder of winter. Now in its 33rd year, the festival grew from one location and 1,000 light bulbs to become known throughout the country. Objects

Sapporo Snow Festival

(original photo by daita saru; CC BY 2.0)

The Snow Festival is one of Hokkaido’s most famous events, with Sapporo’s main street lined with statues and sculptures made with ice and snow. Every year more than 2 million Japanese and international visitors come to see the spectacle, with

Hachinohe Emburi

This festival is carried out in hope of a successful harvest. Dancers wearing hats representing horse head carry out a very unique and stylized dance, in which they wave their heads back and forth, while singing traditional rice farming songs.

Aomori Nebuta

At this festival, giant models of warriors and lantern decorated floats are taken through the city among powerful shouts. One of the many theories about the origin of the festival is that it is based on the “Tanabata” festival, during which

Akita Kanto Festival

(original photo by Yasuhiro_S; CC BY 2.0)

This festival originated from the ancient tradition of fending off the evil spirits of the summer, in hope of better health and crops. Participants parade through the streets with giant bamboo sticks to which an uncountable number of paper lanterns

Yamagata Hanagasa Festival

This parade centers around floats, lavishly decorated with flower arrangements, and the accompanying dancers, dancing to Hanagasa Ondo folk songs, with their trademark red flower hats in hand. Over the three days of the festival, more than 1 million spectators

Sukagawa Taimatsu Akashi

(original photo by This-is-Fukushima; CC BY 2.0)

Counted as one of the three largest fire festivals in Japan, this powerful and magnificent festival lights up the late fall season. Started to mourn the lost soldiers of Sukagawa Castle, which fell over 400 years ago, the festival consists

Kanda Festival

(original photo by Marufish; CC BY-SA 2.0)

This festival takes place at Kanda Myōjin (神田明神, Kanda Shrine), which has a history going back 1300 years. Alongside the Sannō festival and the Fukagawa festival, this event makes up one third of the three great Edo festivals. Moreover, together

Sannō Festival

(original photo by Hajime NAKANO; CC BY 2.0)

This is one of the three major Edo festivals (江戸三大祭). This historic festival centers around Hie Shrine (日枝神社), the patron shrine of a wide area of central Tokyo which includes the Tokyo Imperial Palace compounds, and is meant to express

Big Float Festival of Sawara

Sawara no Taisai (佐原の大祭, The Big Float Festival in Sawara) is a traditional festival that dates back more than 300 years. The festival takes place twice a year, once in July in the Honjuku area (the east side of the

Kawagoe Festival

(original photo by senngokujidai4434; CC BY 2.0)

The Kawagoe Festival (川越まつり) is a brilliant, gorgeous festival that takes place in what is often referred to as “Koedo” (小江戸), or Little-Edo, a town known for its many, well preserved, old fashioned Japanese ware-houses and businesses from several centuries


(original photo by Dick Thomas Johnson; CC BY 2.0)

Torinoichi (酉の市) is the religious festival of Otori Shrine that takes place every year on the Day of the Rooster (酉の日, Tori no hi) in November. The festival flourished around the Kanto area during the Edo Period, with the celebration

Chichibu Yomatsuri

(original photo by Kaori Hilton; CC BY-SA 2.0)

This festival, with a history of over 300 years is designated as part of Japan’s “Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties”. On the 2nd and 3rd, cars and floats decorated with paper lanterns parade the city. Some of these have performance

Takayama Festival

(original photo by Yuya Tamai; CC BY 2.0)

This festival takes place in spring and autumn. Several hundreds of people dress up in traditional Japanese attire and dance and parade through town to old Shinto songs led by lion dancers. Designated as one of Japan’s “Important Intangible Folk

Hamamatsu Festival

This festival celebrates the birth of the first son in the last year. With more than 1 million visitors, it ranges as one of the largest festivals in Japan. During the day, there are a number of kite flying competitions

Owara Kaze-no-bon

(original photo by つだ; CC BY-SA 2.0)

Matching their dance with the sentimental mood of the folk song “Etchu Owara” (越中おわら節), the dancers at this festival dance in a more subdued and elegant manner, while parading through town. On occasion, spectators are also welcome to join the

Kakegawa Festival

The fall festival in Kakegawa (掛川祭) is famous for its performances, “yatai” floats, and lion dance. The Grand Festival takes place only once every three years, the next being in 2012, with performers from each town dancing in procession. The

Paul Rusch Festival Yatsugatake County Fair

(original photo by 663highland; CC BY-SA 3.0)

This American-style Thanksgiving Festival is a rarity in Japan. Named after Dr. Paul Rusch, a Kentucky native who, focusing on the area around Yatsugatake Nanroku, devoted his life to helping rebuild Japan and introduce democracy after the war, this festival

Aoi Festival

The origins of Aoi Matsuri (葵祭) can be traced back to the noble circles of the Imperial court. Among the many Japanese festivals it is known as one of the finest and rarest of its kind. Especially impressive is the

Kyoto Gion Festival

The Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) is one of Japan’s three major festivals. It was first established in the year 869 in Kyoto and then became increasingly popular throughout Japan. Its primary objective has been to worship the Gion god and by

Otsu Festival

(original photo by Travis Sanders; CC BY 2.0)

Originating in the early part of the Edo Period, this religious festival includes a parade of magnificent, 13 story tall lantern floats. This festival is rare for its mechanical dolls (Karakuri Ningyo) which operate on special mechanisms such as “Koi

Shika no Tsunokiri (deer horn cutting)

For almost 330 years, the Shika no Tsunokiri has been a marker of the fall season in Nara since the Edo Period. The event was started to protect townspeople, as well as valuable cultural properties from being damaged by bucks’

Kyoto Jidai Festival

Established in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the Heian Period move of the capital, this festival takes place at Heian Shrine. What is special about this festival, is that it offers you the chance to view a large

Kurama Fire Festival

(original photo by Itamar Mendelson; CC BY 2.0)

The Kurama Fire Festival (鞍馬の火祭) takes place every year on the 22nd of October at Yuki Shrine, in Kyoto. Starting at 6pm, watch fires called Kagaribi (篝火) are ignited in front of each household in the village and, while the

Kōchi Yosakoi Festival

(original photo by 工房 やまもも; CC BY 2.0)

At this festival the unique “Yosakoi Naruko” dance is performed to the clapping rhythm of the Naruko (a wooden percussion instrument). On the evening of the 9th, there is a big fireworks competition at the Kagamigawa riverside and the main

Awa Odori

(original photo by Rosino; CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Awa Odori (阿波踊り) dance is one of the three Obon dances, and is performed to accompanying shamisen, taiko and flute music. During the festival period, a wide area of the town turns into a pedestrian paradise with dance stages

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival

(original photo by Pontafon; CC BY-SA 3.0)

This festival which takes place at Kushida Shrine (櫛田神社), home to the patron deity of Hakata, looks back onto a history of more than 760 years. The Yamakasa here are large floats decorated with banners and puppets, which are presented

Hakata Dontaku

(original photo by フェレス; CC BY-SA 2.1)

Between 10:00am and 8:00pm, at 30 different locations in the Tenjin and Hakata districts, the so-called “Dontaku-tai” dance groups will perform displays of their skills. In the afternoon, there is also a parade at the Dontaku Plaza on Meiji Dori.

Okinawa Zento Eisa Festival

(original photo by Nelo Hotsuma; CC BY 2.0)

Eisa (エイサー) is a traditional Okinawan dance festival, which takes place around the Obon holidays. In 1956, when Koza City (present-day Okinawa City) was established, this event began as an Eisa dance competition. Since then it has evolved into a

Nagasaki Kunchi

(original photo by Marine-Blue; CC BY-SA 3.0)

This event consists of musical performances in honor of the patron deities of the surrounding villages which are kept at Suwa Shrine. One of the main features of this festival is its international flair, including cultural imports from Holland, Portugal

Hita Sennen Akari

The historical town of Mameda (豆田) has been registered as a national cultural asset, and every year on the second weekend of November, Hita Tenryo Festival (日田天領祭り), a festival celebrating the historical importance of the area is held. The bamboo

Taketa Chikuraku

(original photo by Hiroaki Kaneko; CC BY-SA 2.0)

Taketa Chikuraku (たけた竹楽) is an illumination event that started in 2000 in Taketa City, where over half the city is covered by forested land, with a good portion of it being varieties of bamboo. Bamboo was once a valuable material,

Sanja Festival

Sanja Festival (三社祭) is one of Tokyo’s biggest festivals. The parade centers around three portable shrines (mikoshi) which are carried towards Asakusa Shrine. The festival attracts up to 2 million visitors every year, and is a truly quintessential Japanese experience,

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