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)
Daimonji Bonfire Festival (Aug)
Daimonji Festival is one of the three famous festivals in Kyoto. At 8pm on August 16, five giant bonfires are lit on five mountains.
Two of the fires, measuring up to 160m, form the Chinese character "dai" (meaning large). One forms the characters "Myo-ho" (wondrous teaching of Buddha), one the shape of a boat, and the last the shape of a torii gate.
The largest "dai" is lit first, with the next 4 being lit at 10 minute intervals.
The origins of this ancient festival are unclear, but it is believed that the spirits of ancestors come back to their homes during this period, called obon.
Fires are lit to send the ancestors' spirits back at the end of obon.
SMALL GROUP TOURS
The August departures of our Essential Honshu tour will coincide with this amazing festival.
The lighting of the bonfires takes place every year on August 16th at 8pm, although we recommend arriving earlier to ensure you get a good spot.
The festival takes place in central Kyoto. There are numerous spots from which you can view some or all of the bonfires.
Our recommendation is to view the main dai from the banks along the Kamo river. This area is bustling with Japanese having picnics, eating and drinking sake, making for an amazing atmosphere.
Get there early to grab a good spot, bring lots of snacks and drinks, and join the party!
Some of the bigger hotels have Daimonji events where you can view all five bonfires from their top floor bar/restaurants. Let us know if this would be of interest to you.
Thers is also a smaller Daimonji festival held in Hakone on the same day.
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