In Japan, festivals are something very typical. Called matsuri in Japanese, these festivals are popular in summer, however, they are around for the whole year. Traditional Japanese festivals are of all sizes, from big ones with huge crowds to smaller and modest ones only with the neighbours. Besides, it doesn’t matter how big or small is a festival, they all have their charms.
The matsuris have their origins in the Japanese pagan ways, the Shintoism. These festivals were done in a way to honour the Gods. When Buddhism came to Japan, it was mixed with Shintoism which also adopted Buddhism festivals. Besides, most festivals in Japan are done by either some shrines or temples or are done by the local government or some agencies. There are many festivals in Japan so it is hard to decide which one is the best, but in this article, you will see a list for some of them.
The Lantern Festival in Nagasaki
The Nagasaki Lantern Festival is the first festival in the calendar of festivals, which takes place in Nagasaki. People celebrate this matsuri by launching colourful lanterns which adorn the entire city in lights. The Nagasaki Lantern Festival is the longest in Japan because it is celebrated for 15 days in the Chinese New Year. According to the Lunar calendar, the festival is held between 25 January to 8 February.
We can all say thanks to the Chinese residents in Nagasaki City’s Chinatown. They started the festival and in 1994 it became an official annual event of the city. Besides, Nagasaki has one of the three biggest Chinatowns in Japan, along with Yokohama and Kobe. Nagasaki has a strong Chinese influence because of its trading history with China.
The festival is held in Chinatown and the surrounded area, where famous shapes of lanterns lighten up the city and entertain the visitors. In addition to the spectacular lanterns, there are also other Chinese attractions and shows, such as Emperor’s Parade, Chinese Lion Dance, Chinese Acrobatics, and many more. Also, during this time of the festival, you won’t go hungry, because there are hundreds of food stalls and souvenirs shops that offer the greatest flavours of China.
The Sapporo Festival
Yuki Matsuri or Sapporo Festival happens in Hokkaido, the northernmost area of Japan, which is known to be a place with abundant snow, especially during winter. In Hokkaido, it’s the city of Sapporo which decided to use that snow to build snow sculptures. In history, it all started with six sculptures made by local high school students in 1950. Now, the Yuki Festival has become one of the biggest snow and ice festivals in the world. It attracts more than two million visitors every year and there is also an international snow sculpture contest.
Besides the snow sculptures, the festival also includes food & beverages activities, concerts, and snowball fights, and snow slides. During the night the snow and ice sculptures are illuminated, making them even more beautiful which creates a magical atmosphere. The Sapporo Snow Festival is held in early February every year and it is the biggest winter festival in Japan.
Usually, when the festival starts, three sites are chosen, the Odori Site, Susukino Site, and Tsu Dome Site. The Odori Site is the main part of the festival, where every year along the 1.5 km of the main street of Sapporo city, are snow and ice sculptures including the over 10 m tall large scale ones. Along the street, there are also shops, food and drink stalls, light-up sculptures at night, and an ice skate ring in front of the Sapporo Tower.
The Susukino Site is located in Hokkaido’s biggest red-light district in the Susukino area, where visitors can enjoy the fine curving art of ice blocks and ice sculptures along the street. The last but not the least, the Tsu Dome Site is located a bit off the central area, however, it is a great place to play with snow attractions such as the snow slopes, snow maze, and creating a snowman. The Tsu Dome is opened 5 days earlier than the other sites.
Largest Anime Festival
AnimeJapan is the largest anime festival in the world, also known as Tokyo International Anime Fair is operated by the Association of Japanese Animations and Association of Manga Publishers. The festival has an extensive committee of 19 anime companies that organise this event. The festival is an exhibition of sorts where it consists of numerous booths dedicated to the various kinds of anime from both Japan and around the world.
Here, anime fans have the chance to meet some of their favourite anime creators and character voice actors. Fans can also find exclusive goods like Yugioh cards, Light’s Deathnote, nanoblock collections, meet cosplay artists that are dressed either as Sailormoon, Natsu from Fairy Tail, or even wander around with Ichigo’s Zapnakuto from Bleach.
The AnimeJapan Executive Committee includes Animate, King Records, Tezuka Production, and other studios. This festival serves the anime fans because here they have the chance to meet production companies like Production IG which is known for Attack on Tita, Sunrise with Cowboy Bepop, and others. Thanks to the anime committee the festival has become one of the top anime events in the world. The AnimeJapan happens usually during March which is the perfect time for experiencing the breathtaking cherry blossom season.
However, these are not the only festivals that happen in Japan. There are many more like Kanda Matsuri, Sanja Matsuri, Gion Matsuri which all happen in Tokyo. Besides, almost every city in Japan has a festival of their own, like Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka, Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori, Tanabata Matsuri in Sendai, and many other cities. Don’t forget to visit Kyoto as well since has the most Japanese tradition in the country with their geisha’s still roaming the place.