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.
- Nebuta Matsuri (Aug)
- Yabusame Horseback Archery (Sep)
- Saijo Sake Festival (Oct)
- Shirakawago Doburoku Matsuri (Oct)
- Toyota Oiden Matsuri (Jul)
- Sapporo Beer Festival (Jul & Aug)
- Sapporo Snow Festival (Feb)
- Sumida River Fireworks Festival (Jul)
- Daimonji Bonfire Festival (Aug)
- Tokyo Anime Fairs (Mar & Apr)
- Kyoto Hanatoro (Dec & March)
- Okayama Naked Festival (Feb)
Shirakawago Doburoku Matsuri (Oct)
The World Heritage village of Shirakawago deep in the heart of the Hakusan National Park is one of Japan's classic sites to visit with its large number of original 'gasho zukkuri' houses and old Japan atmosphere. Tourism and farming are the main industries here and with hundreds of thousands of visitors (mostly day-trippers) every year there is little time to sit back and relax.
However, between 14th and 19th October each year, the residents of the villages that make up Shirakawago let their hair down to offer their thanks and prayers to the mountain god for safety and a good harvest. Production of home-brewed alcoholic drinks is banned in Japan but the people of Shirakawa are given special permission to produce 'limited quantities' of Doburoku, unrefined sake, for the festival. Although this thick, sweet, porridge-like drink is first offered to the gods, there is certainly plenty left over for the local residents and certainly aides the songs, dance and niwaka (improvised buffoonery) that accompany the festival. The Shishimai Dragon Dance is certainly one of the events not to miss here.
Doburoku Matsuri is a great chance to enjoy a day of harvest festival Japanese style!
Doburoku Matsuri takes place between 14th and 19th October each year. The main celebrations are on 14th and 15th, centred around Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine in the Ogimachi district.
Doburoku Matsuri takes place in the villages of Shirakago. Nearby Takayama in the lower regions of the Japan Alps, and Kanazawa on the Japan Sea coast both make for great bases from which to visit the festival. Very few inns are open during the festival so it is best to visit as a day trip.
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