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Top ChoiceCultural in Sapporo

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

Held in early February, this is one of Japan's top festivals. From humble beginnings in 1950, when local high-school students built six snow statues in Ōdōri-kōen, the festival now hosts an international snow...

Top ChoiceDance in Tokushima

Awa-odori Matsuri

The Awa-odori is the largest bon dance in Japan. Each evening men, women and children take to the streets to dance to the samba-like rhythm of the theme song ‘Awa Yoshikono’, accompanied by the sounds of shamisen...

Top ChoiceCultural in Osaka

Tenjin Matsuri

This is one of Japan's three biggest festivals and is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, the Japanese deity of scholarship and learning. Try to make the second day, when processions of mikoshi (portable shrines)...

Top ChoiceCultural in Ueno & Yanesen

Bunkyō Azalae Festival

One of Tokyo's top flower festivals, late spring is the time to view around 100 different species of azalea bloom in a profusion of pinks and reds across the 3000 trees in the grounds of Nezu-jinja.

Top ChoiceCultural in Roppongi, Akasaka & Around

Nerd Nite Tokyo

Held monthly (usually on a Friday night) at the co-working space Nagatachō GRID, this fun, educational addition to Tokyo's range of bi-cultural mixers bills itself as 'the Discovery Channel with beer'. Listen to...

Art in Naoshima

Setouchi Triennale

Setouchi Triennale

This festival of art, music, drama and dance comes around every three years and has a packed calendar of events occurring on multiple Inland Sea islands, many on Naoshima and Teshima. Previous schedules have been...

Parade in Takayama

Takayama Matsuri

One of Japan's great festivals, the Takayama Matsuri is in two parts. On 14 and 15 April there's the Sannō Matsuri, when a dozen decorated yatai (floats) are paraded through the town. Hachiman Matsuri, on 9 and...

Cultural in Tokyo

Hanami

For a week or two, usually in late March and early April, Tokyoites toast spring in spirited parties, called hanami, under the blooming cherry trees. Top spots include Ueno-kōen, Yoyogi-kōen and Shinjuku-gyoen.

Parade in Asakusa & Sumida River

Sanja Matsuri

Tokyo's biggest festival is held over the third weekend of May and attracts about 1.5 million spectators to Asakusa-jinja. The highlight is the rowdy parade of mikoshi (portable shrines) carried by men and women...

Memorial Service in Hiroshima

Peace Memorial Ceremony

On the anniversary of the atomic bombing, 6 Aug, a memorial service is held in Peace Memorial Park and thousands of paper lanterns for the souls of the dead are floated down the Kyūōta-gawa from in front of the...

Cultural in Sado-ga-shima

Earth Celebration

One of Sado's biggest drawcards is this three-day music, dance and arts festival, held during the third week in August. The event features okesa (folk dances), onidaiko (demon drum dances) and tsuburosashi (a...

Cultural in Sendai

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri

The Tanabata Matsuri celebrates a Chinese legend about two stars: Vega, a king’s daughter, who fell in love with Altair, a common herder. The king disapproved, so he formed the Milky Way between them. Once a year...

Cultural in Nozawa Onsen

Dōsojin Matsuri

Each year crowds gather for the famous Dōsojin Matsuri, a kind of cleansing ritual for men aged 25 and 42 years, the so-called 'unlucky ages' in Japan. The 42-year-olds' task is to defend a purpose-built...

Parade in Hida-Furukawa

Furukawa Matsuri

Furukawa Matsuri – informally known as Hadaka Matsuri (Naked Festival) – consists of parades of yatai (festival floats). The highlight is an event known as Okoshi Daiko: on the night of 19 April, squads of...

Fireworks in Miyajima

Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival

During Miyajima's most popular event, spectacular and imaginative fireworks are launched over the water, at a safe distance from the floating torii but still creating a one-of-a-kind visual. Come early and be...

Parade in Kanazawa

Hyakumangoku Matsuri

In early June Kanazawa's main annual festival commemorates the first time the region's rice production hit one million koku (around 150,000 tonnes). There's a parade of townsfolk in 16th-century costumes, takigi...

Cultural in Nagasaki

Kunchi Matsuri

This energetic festival features Chinese dragons dancing all around the city, but especially at Suwa-jinja. The festival is marked by elaborate costumes, fireworks, cymbals and giant dragon puppets. In addition,...

Cultural in Nara

Yamayaki

Though the origins of this festival are unclear (it's possibly a nod to a long-ago feud between the monks of Tōdai-ji and Kōfuku-ji), Nara's three big religious institutions, Tōdai-ji, Kōfuku-ji and Kasuga...

Cultural in Inuyama

Inuyama Matsuri

A government-designated Intangible Cultural Asset, this festival features a parade of 13 three-tiered floats strewn with 365 lanterns. Atop each float, elaborate karakuri ningyō (marionettes) perform to music....

Cultural in Kyoto

Daimon-ji Gozan Okuribi

This festival is celebrated as a means of bidding farewell to the souls of ancestors. Enormous fires, in the form of Chinese characters or other shapes, are lit on five mountains. The largest fire is burned on...