In Japan, there are more than 300,000 traditional “matsuri”, which means festivals in Japan, and they are very different from area to area. Normally, a matsuri is sponsored by a local shrine or temple and is organized by the local community. People wear a typical matsuri costume and carry a heavy Mikoshi, which is a portable shrine around the street, hoping it can bless the town and people. Matsuri sometimes refers to an event held in a local area. It could be a dancing performance or an artistic competition, such as Yuki matsuri (Hokkaido), or Yosakoi matsuri (Kochi).
The following are 10 very popular matsuri in Japan and if you can attend, you will be amazed by the participants’ power and passion!
1. Gion Matsuri (Kyoto)
Gion Matsuri is a one of the most famous festivals in Japan. It takes place during the entire month of July, but the highlight is the grand procession of floats called “Yamaboko Junko” on the 17th and 24th. It takes place on the Kawaramachi and Oike Streets.
2. Awa Odori (Tokushima)
This is the largest traditional dance festival in Japan. Men, women and children dance on almost all of the streets in Tokushima City, from the 12th to the 15th of August. They wear summer cotton kimono and straw hats. More than a million people get together for this festival, and it is a spectacular sight. You can even join them to dance with the rhythmic music!
3. Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo)
Kanda Matsuri is one of the most famous festivals in Tokyo and is a festival for the Kanda Myojin Shrine. The main action happens during the middle of May. The portable shrines, called Mikoshi, are accompanied by about a thousand people, and after they leave the Kanda Myojin Shrine in the morning, the parade continues through the Kanda district, Nihonbashi and Akihabara and returns to the shrine in the evening.
4. Yuki Matsuri, Snow Festival (Sapporo)
Sapporo’s Yuki Matsuri takes place in February. The origin of this festival was six snow statues built by local high school students in 1950, and now it has become an international contest of gigantic snow sculptures.
5. Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori)
The Nebuta Matsuri takes place from the 2nd to the 7th of August in Aomori City. Nebuta are lantern floats which depict human figures and are accompanied by thousands of chanting dancers. The parade starts at sunset and continues for hours.