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Unmissable Japanese Events

A portable Shinto shrine (a mikoshi) is carried through the streets of Akihabara in Tokyo as part of the Kanda Matsuri (神田祭)

In local Shinto festivals all over Japan, mikoshi (portable shrines) are carried through the streets. This is one of around 200 mikoshi that are paraded around Kanda and surrounding areas of Tokyo as part of Kanda Matsuri, held on the weekend closest to May 15, but only in odd-numbered years. (CC)

What better way could there be to experience a country than to take part in one of its festivals? Japan has a very wide range of events, some of which have a history dating back over a thousand years, while others celebrate modern pop-culture. The scale of some festivals is enough to make a lasting impression, while other times it’s the distinctive nature of the proceedings, or the fervour with which attendees participate that makes them memorable. I can guarantee that nothing quite like any of the events covered here can be experienced in any other country, so if one is on when you’re in Japan, you really ought to do your best to go.

  1. Comic Market: A fan’s festival of manga and anime
  2. Design Festa: A bonanza of art and creativity
  3. Kashima Gatalympics: Mud, mud and more mud
  4. Koenji Awaodori: Music, dance and euphoria
  5. Yabusame: Horseback archery samurai-style
  6. Miyako Odori: Kyoto’s geisha dances
  7. Sapporo Snow Festival: A winter wonderland
  8. Asakusa Samba Carnival: Tokyo de Janeiro
  9. Hanami: Cherry blossom parties
  10. BOAT RACE: Power, speed and gambling
  11. Fuji Rock Festival: Music in the mountains
  12. International Robot Exhibition: Experience tomorrow today
  13. Cormorant Fishing: An ancient art
  14. Rice Planting Festivals: Entertaining the rice spirits
  15. B-1 Grand Prix: Simple but delicious
  16. Keirin: Japan’s Olympic sport
  17. Ryusei Matsuri: Dragon rockets and gunpowder prayers
  18. Soma Nomaoi: Where samurai live on
Comic Market

What’s on when?

Use this list to easily see what events are on when you’re going to be in Japan, or to plan your trip around the events you most want to see.

January

Hanami (Okinawa)
Sumo (Tokyo)

February

Sapporo Snow Festival

March

Hanami
Sumo (Osaka)

April

Miyako Odori
Hanami
Rice Planting Festivals

May

Design Festa
Kashima Gatalympics
Kanda Matsuri
Geisha Dances
Hanami (northern Japan)
Cormorant Fishing
Sumo (Tokyo)
Rice Planting Festivals

June

Cormorant Fishing
Sumiyoshi Taisha Otaue Matsuri

July

Fuji Rock Festival
Cormorant Fishing
Sumo (Nagoya)
Soma Nomaoi

August

Comic Market
Koenji Awaodori
Tokushima Awaodori
Asakusa Samba Carnival
Cormorant Fishing

September

Cormorant Fishing
Sumo (Tokyo)

October

Cormorant Fishing
Ryusei Matsuri

November

Design Festa
Geisha Dances
International Robot Exhibition (odd-numbered years only)
Sumo (Fukuoka)

December

Comic Market

Throughout the year

These events take place several times each year:
Yabusame
BOAT RACE
B-kyu Gourmet Festivals
Keirin






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