MATSURI Overview

About Japanese MATSURI

About Japanese MATSURI

Japan is a country that offers a charm for each area and every season. Japanese people believe that there are an infinite number of gods, known as kami, that occupy everything in the world. Matsuri are festivals, said to be a way of thanking kami and nature, celebrating a way of life, and coming together as a community.

There are various theories about their origins, but traditionally matsuri are used to give thanks to kami and buddhist deities. The word “matsuri” comes from words meaning “to deify” and “to worship.” Thus, it is generally accepted that matsuri began as ways to pray to Shinto or Buddhist deities.

Some matsuri, especially newer ones, don’t have an explicit religious connection. They might be community-focused, or revolve around seasonal events like snow or cherry blossoms. In addition, some celebrate historical figures or events.

How To Enjoy A MATSURI

How To Enjoy A MATSURI

Matsuri can be Shinto events, Buddhist events, or both, so there are many conventions and rules to be aware of. Access can differ in terms of traffic and public transport, so it’s best to confirm your route online first.

At the festival, you probably won’t be able to use credit cards or electronic payment, so it’s a good idea to bring cash. These events are usually crowded, so we also recommend carrying babies rather than using pushchairs. Furthermore, please be aware of toilet facilities, and be aware of where your children are.

YATAI
Simple, temporary stalls called ‘yatai’ offer amusements like shooting ranges, horseshoe throwing, goldfish scooping and more. They’ve been popular among Japanese children since the olden days.
MIKOSHI
A mikoshi is a kind of palanquin, occupied by a kami during a festival so it can be moved around. People wearing coats called ‘hanten’ carry it on their shoulders as part of many matsuri. Normally, participation isn’t open to visitors, but some events where this is possible do exist.
ODORI
Japanese festival dances, known as ‘odori,’ are often simple with many repeated motions — this means that anyone can give it a go, even if they don’t know the steps.

In particular, the ‘Bon Odori’ dance and festival of the same name, held in summer, is open to everyone to participate and enjoy.

JApanEsE FestivalS Map

JApanEsE FestivalS Map

Recommended Japanese FestivalS

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    Access
    10 minutes by taxi from JR Hagi Station

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UNIQUE Free FestivalS ALL OVER JAPAN

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    Drink in the Beauty of Ice in Midwinter! Hyoubaku Festival, Hokkaido

    Venue
    Kamikawacho, Hokkaido
    type
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    date
    Late January to mid-March
    Access
    About 30 minutes by bus from JR Kamikawa Station on the Sekihoku Main Line

    Putting Hokkaido’s freezing weather to good use, this festival has run since 1976. It features an illuminated ice dome, fireworks and ice climbing experiences for you to enjoy.

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  • Feel History in the Flames! Taimatsu Akashi, Fukushima Prefecture

    Feel History in the Flames! Taimatsu Akashi, Fukushima Prefecture

    Venue
    Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture
    type
    Fire Festival
    date
    Second Saturday in November
    Access
    About 20 minutes’ walk from JR Sukagawa Station on the Tohoku Main Line

    This festival is centered around prayers for the dead, after a feudal lord was overthrown in a great battle about 450 years ago. Gigantic torches are paraded around the town before being stood at the top of Mount Goro and set alight.

    Note: The climax of the festival takes place after dark, and it can get very cold. Please dress appropriately. Furthermore, there may be sparks and embers in the air from the flaming torches, so please do not wear nylon or other flammable clothing.

  • The Premier Gathering of Mikoshi in Japan! Sanja Matsuri, Tokyo

    The Premier Gathering of Mikoshi in Japan! Sanja Matsuri, Tokyo

    Venue
    Taito Ward, Tokyo
    type
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    date
    Third weekend of May
    Access
    About 7 minutes’ walk from Tokyo Metro Asakusa Station

    Around 100 mikoshi parade through the streets of Asakusa in May as part of the 700-year-old Sanja Matsuri. Mikoshi and participants come from all over Japan and the streets echo with traditional music.

    Note: The area around the mikoshi can be extremely crowded with visitors and participants. Please be careful.

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    Enjoy Festival Floats Made with Traditional Techniques! Chichibu Yomatsuri, Saitama Prefecture

    Venue
    Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture
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    December 2–3
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    3 minutes’ walk from Chichibu Station on the Chichibu Railway

    Encompassing 300 years of history, Chichibu Yomatsuri is held every December. It features a parade of six floats. As they go, you can hear traditional music and the chant of “Boryai, boryai.”

    Note: Please dress appropriately for cold weather.

  • Feel History in the Midst of Cherry Blossoms! Shizuoka Matsuri, Shizuoka Prefecture

    Feel History in the Midst of Cherry Blossoms! Shizuoka Matsuri, Shizuoka Prefecture

    Venue
    Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture
    type
    Historical Festival
    date
    Early April
    Access
    About 10 minutes’ walk from JR Shizuoka Station

    The shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu is known to have visited the cherry blossoms of Shizuoka, and it is was on this basis that Shizuoka Matsuri was established in 1957. It features a parade in historical dress including a person playing Tokugawa Ieyasu himself.

    Note: It is advisable to check the parade route and schedule before the festival.

  • An Osaka Custom in the Commercial District! Imamiya Ebisu Shrine Touka Ebisu, Osaka

    An Osaka Custom in the Commercial District! Imamiya Ebisu Shrine Touka Ebisu, Osaka

    Venue
    Osaka City, Osaka
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    date
    Every year January 9–12
    Access
    About 3 minutes’ walk from Imamiya Ebisu Station on the Nankai Main Line

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    Note: Please dress appropriately for cold weather, and be sure to confirm the parade route and performance schedule ahead of time.

  • Learn about Traditions at a Rare Farming Event! Mibu No Hanadaue, Hiroshima Prefecture

    Learn about Traditions at a Rare Farming Event! Mibu No Hanadaue, Hiroshima Prefecture

    Venue
    Kitahiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture
    type
    Rice Planting Festival
    date
    First Sunday of April
    Access
    About 12 minutes’ walk from the Chiyoda IC Highway Bus station, reachable in an hour from Hiroshima Station Bus Center

    As part of a rice planting tradition, people (and cows) are bedecked in extravagant clothes and sing traditional songs with music and taiko drums, in order to pray for a good harvest. This festival is registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

    Note: As the location is a little way from Hiroshima City, please be sure to check the bus timetable beforehand. Furthermore, camera tripods are prohibited at the festival.

  • Feel the Power of a Giant Taiko Drum! Niihama Taiko Matsuri, Aichi Prefecture

    Feel the Power of a Giant Taiko Drum! Niihama Taiko Matsuri, Aichi Prefecture

    Venue
    Niihama, Aichi Prefecture
    type
    Taiko Festival
    date
    Mid-October
    Access
    15 minutes by taxi from JR Niihama Station on the Yosan Line

    Dating back to the 12th Century, Niihama Taiko Matsuri uses over 50 drums on parade floats to call for a fruitful year and give thanks. The biggest attraction is "Kakikurabe," pulled by about 150 people.

    Note: The parade travels around the city, so please be sure to check the schedule and viewing areas in advance.