Festival time is Japan at it's best; the Japanese know how to honour ancient traditions and also have a really, really good time.
There's almost always a festival taking place somewhere in Japan. And they come in all shapes and sizes: ancient shrine rituals in a tiny mountain hamlet; elaborate, stately Kyoto processions which date back over 1,000 years; awe-inspiring fireworks displays which bring whole cities to a standstill; scarily dangerous fire festivals where men in loincloths carry flaming torches; snow festivals with gigantic ice sculptures; rice festivals, sake festivals, beer festivals; festivals of light, lanterns, puppets and dance.
Festivals offer visitors the ideal opportunity to see Japan at play; wearing kimono, performing traditional dances, eating street food and drinking plenty of beer and sake. It's also a great chance to talk to the locals, make new friends and be rewarded with the famed Japanese hospitality.
Below are some of our favourite festivals from the famous to the little-known. Accommodation for the major festivals gets booked up a year in advance, so careful planning is necessary. Otherwise why not just see which smaller events coincide with your trip? Just go along and enjoy the surprise.