Japan celebrates its highly unique cultural heritage with a number of festivals and special events held throughout the year. Here's our guide to the best of them.
Sapporo Snow Festival
Held in the city of Sapporo on Hokkaido island, the Sapporo Snow Festival is Japan's largest winter event with hundreds of splendid snow and ice sculptures lining Odori Park. Large snow slides are set up Tsudome community dome and visitors flock here in February each year to enjoy the winter wonderland.
Cherry Blossom Festival
Known as hanami
in Japan, the traditional custom of 'flower viewing' has become one of the most popular times to visit Japan with cities decorated in beautiful cherry blossom. From the end of March to early May when the flowers bloom outdoor parties are held throughout the country with people heading to parks for picnics.The Cherry Blossom Festival
is a particularly good time to visit in terms of weather also.
In Japan Golden Week is a collection of four national holidays that take place within a week including Showa Day celebrating Emperor Showa's birthday; Constitution Day; Greenery Day, a national holiday dedicated to nature; and finally, Children's Day with families praying for the health and success of their sons. During these holidays the Japanese like to travel so trains, hotels and popular sightseeing spots are overcrowded and need to be booked months in advance to ensure availability.
Tenjin Festival in Osaka
Held on the 24th and 25th July every year, the highlights of the Tenjin Festival include processions of drummers, ceremonial floats and fireworks in the evening to honor the deity Sugawara and the Tenmangu Shrine.
Gion Matsuri in Kyoto
Gion Matsuri, the festival of Yasaka Shrine, is one of Japan's most famous festivals with a spectacular grand procession of floats or hoko
as they are known in Japanese, which can reach enormous proportions at 25 metres tall. At night the area around the Kamo River swells with food stalls and markets.
Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo
Taking place in mid-May in odd numbered years, the Kanda Matsuri festival honours the Kanda Myojin Shrine with a day-long procession and parades of shrines through central Tokyo. Other events are held over the week.
This annual Buddhist event in mid-August is a time for families to commemorate their ancestors with lanterns, special dances, food offerings made at house altars and shrines in order to guide the spirits on their return to this world.
The annual Autumn Festival held in the town of Takayama is in honour of Hachiman Shrine with a dozen festival floats known as yatai
paraded through the streets when the weather is fine. Some of the floats have sophisticated mechanical dolls that perform movements during the parade. The Takayama Festival
takes place on the 9th-10th October each year.