Best traditional festivals (matsuri) in Japan

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Facts & Figures

Japan is well-known for its festival culture and ancient traditions. Throughout the year Japanese people celebrate their ancestors, the emperor, seasonal changes and much more with big parades, small Shinto and Buddhism ceremonies, huge fireworks and local music festivals. With the following list I try to cover some highlights from all over Japan with hopefully the right mixture of unique, colourful, must-see and close to my heart events and festivals.

January

01/01 Tokyo at Meiji Shrine:
Saitansai New Year's Day ritual
01/01 - 03/01 Kamakura at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine:
New Year’s Day celebration
02/01 Tokyo at Imperial Palace:
New Year's Greeting of Imperial family
09/01 - 11/01 Osaka at Imamiya Ebisu Shrine:
Toka-Ebisu Festival
End of Jan. Yokohama in Chinatown:
Chinese New Year's Festival

February

02/02 - 04/02 Nara at Kasuga Taisha Shrine:
Setsubun Mantoro
03/02 Tokyo at Zojo-ji Temple:
Setsubun Festival
Beginning of Feb. Lake Towada:
Lake Towada Snow Festival
05/02 - 12/02 Sapporo:
Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri)
09/02 Kyoto at Fushimi Inari-Taisha:
Hatsu-uma Festival - First Day of the Horse

March

17/03 Tokyo at Omotesando:
Saint Patrick's Day Festival
20/03 - 08/04 Tokyo at Ueno Park:
Ueno Sakura Matsuri
23/03 - 07/04 Kumamoto Castle:
Kumamoto Spring Castle Festival
28/03 - 10/04 Nagoya at Nagoya Castle:
Nagoya Castle Spring Festival
End of March Kyoto at Nijo Castle:
Nijo-jo Castle Sakura Festival

April

2nd to 3rd Sunday Kamakura:
Kamakura Matsuri
12/04 Yoshino:
Hanakueshiki Festival
14/04 - 15/04 Takayama:
Takayama Spring Festival
16/04 - 17/04 Nikko:
Yayoi Matsuri
29/04 - 03/05 Tokyo at Meiji Shrine:
Meiji Jingu Spring Grand Festival

May

03/05 - 05/05 Hamamatsu:
Hamamtsu Matsuri
15/05 Kyoto at Shimogamo Shrine:
Aoi Matsuri
17/05 - 18/05 Nikko:
Shuki Reitaisai Grand Spring Festival
19/05 Kobe:
Kobe Matsuri Festival
3rd Friday in May Tokyo at Asakusa Shrine:
Sanja Matsuri - Three Shrine Festival

June

02/06 Yokohama Port:
Yokohama Port Opening Festival
1st Saturday Kanazawa:
Hyakumangoku Matsuri
21/06 - 22/06 Hamamatsu:
Enshu Hamakita Hiryu Festival
15/06 Mount Koya:
Aoba Matsuri
22/06 - 24/06 Himeji:
Himeji Yukata Festival

July

14/07 Seiganto-ji Temple (Wakayama Pref.):
Nachi-no-Hi-Matsuri (Fire Festival of Nachi)
16/07 Yokohama:
Yokohama International Fireworks
17/07 Kyoto:
Gion Matsuri
24/07 - 25/07 Osaka:
Tenjin Matsuri Festival
Last Saturday in July Tokyo:
Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival

August

01/08 - 07/08 Aomori:
Nebuta Matsuri
03/08 - 15/08 Nagoya at Nagoya Castle:
Nagoya Castle Summer Festival
11/08 Miyajima:
Miyajima Water Fireworks Display
24/08 - 25/08 Osaka at Osaka Castle:
Osaka Lantern Festival
25/08 Tokyo in Asakusa:
Asakusa Samba Carnival

September

14/09 - 16/09 Kamakura at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine:
Reitai Matsuri
16/09 Tokyo in Shinjuku:
Kumano Shrine Autumn Festival
Mid Sep. Kobe in Chinatown:
Nankinmachi Mid-autumn Festival
22/09 - 24/09 Ise at Ise Shrine:
Kagura-sai Autumn Festival
23/09 - 25/09 Aizuwakamatsu Castle:
Aizu Festival

October

05/10 - 06/10 Ise City:
Ise Ō-Matsuri
16/10 - 17/10 Kawagoe:
Kawagoe Hikawa Festival
17/10 - 18/10 Nikko at Toshogu Shrine:
Shuki Taisai Grand Autumn Festival
22/10 Kyoto at Imperial Palace:
Jidai Matsuri ("Festival of Ages")
25/10 - 03/11 Naha at Shuri Castle:
Shurijo Castle Festival

November

06/11 Osaka at Shitenno-ji Temple:
Shitenno-ji-Wasso Festival
08/11 Kyoto at Fushimi Inari-Taisha:
Hitaki-sai Festival (Fire festival)
First Saturday/Sunday Ishigaki Island:
Ishigaki Matsuri (Ishigaki Island Festival)
23/11 Magome:
Magome Shukuba Matsuri
End of Nov. Hamamatsu:
Inasa Puppet Play Festival

December

In Dec. Tokyo Tower:
enjoy the Christmas Illumination
Second Weekend Meoto Iwa:
Oshimenawa Harikae Shinji - rope replacing
23/12 Tokyo at Imperial Palace:
Birthday of the Emperor - inner palace open for public
31/12 Nachi Falls:
Illumination of the Nachi Falls
31/12 Tokyo Tower:
New Year's Eve celebration

Book your Japan trip and have a great time