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)...

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 Nara

Shuni-e Ceremony

During this fire festival the monks of Tōdai-ji parade huge, flaming torches around the balcony of Nigatsu-dō for 10 nights straight, raining embers on spectators to purify them. On the following day they draw...

Cultural in Nara

Mantōrō

On 3 February, also known as Setsubun (the first day of spring on the old lunar calendar), Kasuga Taisha lights each and every one of its 3000 stone and bronze lanterns – it's unbelievably atmospheric. The...

Cultural in Kōya-san

Rōsoku Matsuri

This captivating festival is held in remembrance of departed souls. Thousands of people come to light some 100,000 candles along the approaches to Oku-no-in.

Cultural in Himeji

Nada-no-Kenka Matsuri

At most matsuri, mikoshi (portable shrines) are paraded through town; here, three competing teams of loincloth-clad men batter their mikoshi at one another until only one (the winner) is left intact. (These are...

Cultural in Osaka

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

Osaka's wildest festival, held over the 3rd weekend in September, is a kind of running of the bulls except with danjiri (festival floats), many weighing over 3000kg. The danjiri are hauled through the streets by...

Parade in Nagahama

Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri

Nagahama's famous festival lasts a week, but the highlight takes place on 15 April, when costumed five- to 13-year-old children perform kabuki (a form of stylised Japanese theatre) aboard a dozen elaborately...

Light Show in Kōbe

Luminarie

Kōbe's biggest event takes place over 10 days in early December, when the streets southwest of Kōbe City Hall are decorated with illuminated archways that together look like an other-worldly cathedral. It's held...

Cultural in Nachi-Katsuura

Nachi-no-Ōgi Matsuri

Mikoshi (portable shrines) are brought down from Kumano Nachi Taisha on the mountain to the waterfall Nachi-no-taki, where they're met by groups bearing dramatic, flaming torches (believed to have a purifying...

Fireworks in Ōtsu

Biwa-ko Dai-Hanabi Taikai

This display of 10,000 fireworks over Biwa-ko is a major summer event, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors. You can get good views from the waterfront near Keihan Hama-Ōtsu Station, but you'll have to get...

Cultural in Nara

Shika-no-Tsunokiri

Nara-kōen's deer are pursued in a type of rodeo into the Roku-en (deer enclosure) close to Kasuga Taisha, where they are wrestled to the ground and their antlers sawn off. Tourist brochures suggest that this is...

Music in Osaka

Summer Sonic

Held over two days in August, this annual music festival attracts an impressive line-up of international and Japanese bands. Past acts include Teenage Fanclub, Weezer, Radiohead, Beyonce, Beat Crusaders and the...

Dance in Nara

Takigi Nō

Open-air performances of nō (stylised dance-drama) are held after dark by the light of blazing torches at Kōfuku-ji (on the third Friday of May) and Kasuga Taisha (on the third Friday and Saturday of May).

Performing Arts in Ise-Shima

Kagura-sai

Sacred dances (kagura) are performed twice annually, over three days, on the grounds of Naikū.

Cultural in Kōya-san

Aoba Matsuri

Held to celebrate the birth of Kōbō Daishi. Various traditional ceremonies are performed at the temples around town.

Cultural in Osaka

Tōka Ebisu

Crowds of more than a million people flock to the Imamiya Ebisu-jinja to receive bamboo branches hung with auspicious tokens.

Cultural in Ōtsu

Ōtsu Matsuri

At Tenson-jinja, near JR Ōtsu Station, ornate floats are displayed on the first day and paraded around the town on the second day.