2018 NO.24

Japanese Festivals Throughout the Year


Unique Festivals Rooted in Local Tradition

Each region of Japan is seasonally, historically, and culturally unique. The festivals in each area, celebrated for centuries, express the local identity.

Photos courtesy of Sendai City Tohoku Regional Collaboration Promotion Office, Niigata City Minami Ward Tourist Association, Niigata Prefecture, City of Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, Hidakagawa Town, Hidaka County, Wakayama Prefecture, City of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, City of Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, City of Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture, City of Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyodo News

①Tohoku Region Tohoku Kizuna Festival

Launched to remember all those lost in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, with hope for complete recovery. The six prefectures of the region take turns celebrating their unique festival in one place every year.

Available in Japanese.

1 Nebuta Festival Aomori

Huge floats chase away the evil spirits that perhaps might come out in the summer nights.

2 Kanto Festival Akita

Tall poles shine with hundreds of paper lanterns (kanto). They take on a life of their own, expressing hopes for a good autumn harvest.

3 Morioka Sansa Festival Iwate

To the beat of 10,000 traditional-style drums, people dance to drive demons away.

4 Sendai Tanabata Festival Miyagi

Bamboo poles are decorated and displayed in the hope for good health and a full harvest.

5 Hanagasa Festival Yamagata

Colorful floats and dancers take to the streets, in thanks for the blessings of nature in the mountains.

6 Waraji Festival Fukushima

Japan’s biggest straw sandal (waraji) makes its appearance, expressing a hope for sturdy legs.

② 新潟 Niigata

Shirone Odako Gassen Kite Fighting(Niigata City)

The world’s largest kites do battle, jolting and jostling until all of the kites but one crash to the ground.

Available in English, Chinese, and French.

③ 静岡 Shizuoka

Kakegawa Festival(Kakegawa City)

Held once every three years, this extravaganza includes a hefty lion—the biggest one in Japan—prancing in the street.

Available in Japanese.

④ 兵庫 Hyogo

Nishinomiya Shrine’s Ritual Gate Opening(Nishinomiya City)

The title of “Happiest Man” for the year is given to the first man to reach the shrine’s main building.

Available in Japanese.

⑤ 和歌山 Wakayama

Warai Festival(Hidakagawa City)

Faces painted white, hands tinkling bells, bodies clothed in outlandish costumes, elderly men call out “Laugh it up” to share happiness with all.

Available in Japanese.

⑥ 山口 Yamaguchi

Iwakuni Yukaba no Kanmai Sacred Dances(Iwakuni City)

The festivities include a presentation of dances and acrobatic stunts on a pine tree, all offered to the gods.

Available in Japanese.

⑦ 愛媛 Ehime

Warei Taisai Festival(Uwajima City)

Winding through the streets are floats—one featuring the legendary monster Ushi-oni, with a neck that moves—asking for divine intervention for good health.

Available in Japanese.

⑧ 長崎 Nagasaki

Takengei(Nagasaki City)

Two youths dressed as white foxes perform stunts up high to thank the gods for the happiness they provide.

Available in English, Chinese, and French.

⑨ 熊本 Kumamoto

Onda Festival(Aso City)

The celebration includes women in white kimono carrying a meal for the gods on their heads and praying for a bountiful harvest of grain.

Available in Japanese.