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The Japanese love celebrating and they love festivals. There are literally thousands of festivals in Japan from the tiny local community festivals just for the residents of one village or city ward, to the huge events such as the Takayama and Gion festivals, attended by hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Festivals in Japan are rich and vibrant occasions. Girls put on their best 'yukatta' (a light kimono) and often the men wear traditional dress as well. The streets are lined with food and drink stands selling grilled meat on sticks, 'yakisoba' fried noodles and all manner of food delights. And of course, the Japanese love a drink at these occasions so beer and sake are never in short supply.

In this section we will be collecting together some of our favourite festivals that we think you may like to consider attending whilst in Japan. Some are really famous, other less so, but what we can guarantee is that you will have a lot of fun. Accommodation for major festivals can get booked up as far as a year in advance so if you are looking to attend a big event then let is know as soon as possible so we can get planning. Often though, it is just a matter of seeing what coincides with your visit and heading along for some festival fun and a chance to meet the Japanese at their most laid back.

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Yabusame Horseback Archery (Sep)

Overview

Yabusame is the ancient Japanese martial art of horseback archery. Originally established in 12th century Japan during the Kamakura period, yabusame is a dramatic art originally developed as a way to entertain the Shinto gods and thus secure their blessings and prosperity, as well as military training exercise. Punishments for those who performed badly could be severe extending as far as ritual suicide or 'sepuka'.

Yabusame is performed on a 255 metre track. The archer gallops down the track controlling the horse with just his knees, as he holds the bow in one hand and takes an arrow with his other in preparation to fire at the target. Three targets are placed at intervals along the track and as the archer raises his bow he lets out a shriek of "In-Yo-In-Yo" - darkness and light. To strike all three targets is considered a great achievement and the finest archer is always rewarded with a white flag, a symbol of the gods' favour.

There are regular yabusame events throughout the year. If you would like to witness this incredible spectacle then let us know and we will try and include an event in your itinerary.

When:
The Kamakura festival is held each year on 16th September. Please ask for details of other yabusame events being held across Japan.

Where:
Yabusame festivals take place all over Japan. The most famous place to see this martial art is in Kamakura at Hachimangu Shrine.

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Inside Japan Tours - Independent British Travel Awards 2011 - Best Tour Operator To East and Central Asia
The Guardian, The Observer - Travel Awards 2010 Winner - Best tour operator (small)
Inside Japan Tours - Silver at the British Travel Awards 2009