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Tokyo Festivals | What to See

Photo credit: Yoshikazu TAKADA via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Photo credit: Yoshikazu TAKADA via Visual Hunt / CC BY

  • Festivals, “Matsuri”

Japan is a country of festivals, so much so that some sort of festival is happening practically everyday in the country. According to some expert over 300,000 festivals are held each year! That’s a lot of partying. And a large number of those are celebrated in summer.

 

The humidity and heat of summer can be extremely unpleasant, so it's best to avoid the summer months, but if you love a good party August is the time to come!

 

Japan’s festivals can be largely categorized into 4 genres.

 

  1.  - Religious (Shinto and Buddhism)
  2.  - Seasonal event
  3.  - Traditional culture/event
  4.  - Other festivities

 

Selected for you below, in order of the calendar year, are large-scale festivals and events that you will positively enjoy, not to mention easy to access from Tokyo.  


January  

Hatsumode [初詣]  Festival Dates: January 1st ~3rd

In Japan, there is a custom called Hatsumode. From December 31st〜January 3rd, people visit temples and shrines to celebrate a new year and pray for a year of good health and happiness. Over 100 million people celebrate this event, that’s almost the entire population of Japan! Not a bad idea to experience this distinctively Japanese cultural scene once in your life. There is a massive turnout, depending on where you visit, but if you want to avoid the crowd, take your chances either on the 2nd or 3rd of January. Below is the ranking of places visited for Hatsumode in the Kanto region in order of number of visitors.   It’s not for certain but the shrines and temples below draw large crowds and tend to be more atmospheric and lively, and therefore recommended.  

[caption id="attachment_13972" align="aligncenter" width="5125"]New Year Celebration at Meiji Shrine Harajuku Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: barefootglobal.co New Year Celebration at Meiji Shrine[/caption]

① Meiji Shrine [明治神宮]     

Location: 1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo

The No.1 shrine visited in Japan, and most iconic, for Hatsumode - the first shrine visit of the New Year.

# of Visitors: roughly 3.16 million people

Url: http://www.meijijingu.or.jp/english/index.html    

[caption id="attachment_13973" align="aligncenter" width="1280"]New Year Celebration Narita-san Chiba Japan Photo Credit: 4travel.jp New Year Celebration at Narita-san[/caption]

② Naritasan Shinshoji Temple [成田山新勝寺]

Location: 1 Narita, Chiba Comment: A large temple representing Shingon Buddhism located near Narita International Airport. 

# of Visitors: roughly 3.09 million people

Url: http://www.naritasan.or.jp/english/index.html  

[caption id="attachment_13974" align="aligncenter" width="660"]New Year Celebration at Kawasaki Daishi Kanagawa Japan Photo Credit: mamajoy.net New Year Celebration at Kawasaki Daishi[/caption]

③ Kawasaki Daishi [川崎大師] or Heiken-ji [平間寺] 

Location: 4-48 Daishimachi, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa  

temple for Shingon Buddhism, it is famous for its powers to ward off evil or protect you against danger.

# of Visitors: roughly 3.07 million people

Url: http://www.kawasakidaishi.com/english/index.html    

[caption id="attachment_13975" align="aligncenter" width="652"]New Year Celebration Senso-ji Temple Asakusa Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: kawagoesi073.blog54.fc2.com New Year Celebration at Senso-ji[/caption]

④ Senso-ji [浅草寺]

 Location: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

The most famous temple in Tokyo.

# of Visitors: roughly 2.83 million people

Url: http://www.senso-ji.jp/about/index_e.html   

[caption id="attachment_13976" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]New Year Celebration at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Kamakura Kanagawa Japan Photo Credit: tanosii-kamakura.jp New Year Celebration at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu[/caption]

⑤ Tsurugaoka Hachimangu [鶴岡八幡宮]

Location: 2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura, Kanagawa 神奈川鎌倉市)

A temple built by Genji, a samurai leader.

# of Visitors: roughly 2.5 million people

Url: http://www.tsurugaoka-hachimangu.jp    

[caption id="attachment_13977" align="aligncenter" width="640"]New Year Celebration Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine Saitama Japan Photo Credit: sp.jorudan.co.jp New Year Celebration at Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine[/caption]

⑥ Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine [ [武蔵一宮 氷川神社]

Location: 1-407 Takahanacho, Omiya-ku, Saitama, Saitama  

The main shrine among the 280 Hikawa shrines in Tokyo.

# of Visitors: roughly 2.15 million people

Url: http://musashiichinomiya-hikawa.or.jp    

[caption id="attachment_13965" align="aligncenter" width="1280"]New Year Festival at Kasama Inari Shrine Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: minkara.carview.co.jp New Year Festival at Kasama Inari Shrine[/caption]

⑦ Kasama Inari Shrine [笠間稲荷神社]

 Location: 1 Kasama, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki 309-1611

1 of the 3 most highly regarded Inari - the god of harvest- shrines in Japan.

# of Visitors: roughly 810,000 people

Url: http://www.kasama.or.jp/english/index.html    

[caption id="attachment_13986" align="aligncenter" width="3072"]New Year Celebration Kashima Shrine Ibaraki Japan Photo Credit: city.kashima.ibaraki.jp New Year Celebration Kashima Shrine[/caption]

⑧ Kashima Shrine [鹿島神宮]

  Location: 2306-1 Kyuchu, Kashima, Ibaraki

With its history dating back more than 2,000  years, it is the shrine for worshiping the god of martial arts.

# of Visitors: roughly 700,000 people

Url: http://kashimajingu.jp  

 


February  

Setsubun [節分]   Festival Date: February 3rd  

In Japan it is believed that a malicious spirit or a vengeful ghost appears during the period of seasonal changes, and one of the “events” to exorcise the evil spirits is Setsubun.  In a house people throw roasted soybeans at others dressed as demons and yell "happiness and luck come in and evil go out!" Then, you eat the number of soybeans of your age, or 1 more than your age, to ward off evil or protect yourself from danger. It is a popular event among Japanese.  

 

The places below are the major venues for celebrating Setsubun, but among them, Narita-san Shinsho-ji is of the largest scale, drawing large crowds and well known for attracting famous Japanese celebrities and several sumo wrestlers. Many pro wrestlers find their way to Ikegami Honmon-ji for this event.  

[caption id="attachment_13985" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Setsubun Festival at Narita-san Chiba Japan Photo Credit: naritasan.or.jp Setsubun Festival at Narita-san[/caption]

① Narita-san Shinshoji Temple [成田山新勝寺]

Festival Date: February 3, 11:00~, 13:30~, 16:00~ (x3) [yearly]

Place: Narita-san Shinshoji Temple [1 Narita, Narita-shi, Chiba]

Access: -10 min. walk from Narita station [Keisei lines, JR lines]

Tel: 0476-22-2111

Url: http://www.naritasan.or.jp/english/index.html  

[caption id="attachment_13984" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Ikegami Honmon-ji Setsubun Festival Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: shinsenhino.com Ikegami Honmon-ji Setsubun Festival[/caption]

② Ikegami Honmon-ji [池上本門寺]  

Festival Date: February 3, 13:00〜16:00

Place: Ikegami Honmon-ji [1-1-1 Ikegami, Ota-ku, Tokyo]

Access: -10 min. walk from Ikegami station [Tokyu Ikegami line] -12 min. walk from Nishi-Magome station [Toei-Asakusa line].

Tel: 03-3752-2331

Url: http://honmonji.jp/index.html    

[caption id="attachment_13957" align="aligncenter" width="1600"]Tomioka Hachiman Shrine Setsubun Festival Photo Credit: omairibiyori.blogspot.jp Tomioka Hachiman Shrine Setsubun Festival[/caption]

③ Tomioka Hachiman Shrine [富岡八幡宮]  

Festival Date: February 3, 15:30~16:30 [yearly]

Place: Tomioka Hachiman Shrine [1-20-3 Tomioka, Taito-ku, Tokyo]

Access: -3 min. walk from Monzen-nakacho station [Tokyo Metro Tozai line]

Tel: 03-3642-1315

Url: http://www.tomiokahachimangu.or.jp  

[caption id="attachment_13958" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Zojo-ji Temple Setsubun Festival Photo Credit: icotto.jp Zojo-ji Temple Setsubun Festival[/caption]

④ Zojo-ji [増上寺]

Festival Date: February 3, 12:00~13:00 [yearly]

Place: Zojo-ji [4-7-35 Shiba Koen, Minato-ku, Tokyo]

Access:

-10 min. walk from Hamamatsucho station [JR lines, Tokyo Monorail]

-5 min. walk from Daimon station [Toei-Asakusa line, Toei-Oedo line ]

-3 min. walk from Onarimon station [Toei-Mita line]

Tel: 03-3432-1431

Url: http://www.zojoji.or.jp/en/  

[caption id="attachment_13959" align="aligncenter" width="1310"]Senso-ji Temple Setsubun Festival in Asakusa Photo Credit: panco.blog.jp Senso-ji Temple Setsubun Festival in Asakusa[/caption]

⑤ Senso-ji [浅草寺]  

Festival Date: Feburary 3 of each year from 11:30〜 and 13:30〜 (held twice)

Place: Senso-ji [2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo]

Access: 5 min. walk from Asakusa station [Tobu SkyTree line, Tokyo Metro Ginza line, Tsukuba express, Toei-Asakusa line]

Tel: 03-3842-0181

Url: http://www.senso-ji.jp/about/index_e.html


March  

[caption id="attachment_13928" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Meguro River Cherry Blossom Evening Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: tokyo-trip.org Meguro River Cherry Blossom[/caption]

March can only be about hanami, the cherry blossom festival. Around the city capital, near the end of March is when the cherry blossom trees begin their 2 week display of beauty. Read more on hanami here: Cherry Blossom Festivals. Other than cherry blossoms, March 3rd is Hinamatsuri which translates to Doll Festival or Girl’s Day.  

[caption id="attachment_13960" align="aligncenter" width="720"] Photo Credit: www.kusuyama.jp[/caption]

Hina Matsuri [ひな祭り]   Festival Date: March 3rd

The festival is a prayer for healthy growth for girls, and goes back hundreds of years. Just like the photo you see here, traditional dolls and a peach flower are displayed in people’s homes while families eat sushi and drink, but not usually outside.   The dolls are elegant and the event is quite fun, so if you have Japanese friends, why not ask them if you can join, especially if they have a young daughter.  


April  

Cherry blossoms again take all the attention in the early days of April. There are no other festivals worth featuring. More on cherry blossoms here: Cherry Blossom Festivals


May  

[caption id="attachment_13961" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Tango no Sekku Festival in Japan Photo Credit: freebies-db.com Tango no Sekku Festival in Japan[/caption]

Tango no Sekku [端午の節句] (The Festival of Boys/Children’s Day)  Festival Date: May 5th

 

Much like Hinamatsuri, Tango no Sekku is a favorite among Japanese and rich with history and tradition. The origin of the festival dates back to China, but has evolved into its own celebration and prayer for the healthy growth of boys. A headpiece, armor, katana, and a samurai doll is propped within the house and carp streamers, known as koi nobori, are hung at the top of the roof or in a garden and celebrated. You won’t see many in the city areas, but make your way to the suburbs and countryside near the end of April, and seeing these massive carp streamers flying in the wind is quite amazing. Tango no Sekku is celebrated at home. Having said that, there are 2 major festivals in Tokyo during May with long-standing tradition and history.  

[caption id="attachment_13962" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Sanja Matsuri Festival in Asakusa Japan Photo Credit: internet-homework.com Sanja Matsuri Festival in Asakusa, Tokyo[/caption]
  1. Sanja Matsuri [三社祭]

Over 1.5 million visitors make their way to this festival rich with history and tradition. Energetic men wearing happi - traditional Japanese coats for events - carry a portable shrine, mikoshi, and parade around town in prayer for a good harvest and to drive away malice. It is indeed a true Japanese festival. The first day is a relatively calm and eventful day with traditional performing arts, but the intensity ramps up quickly in the afternoon of the second day peaking on the 3rd and final day. On the 2nd day, roughly 100 portable shrines from the surrounding towns, and 3 portable shrines from Asakusa Shrine on the 3rd day, are hoisted in the air and paraded around town. The event rages with rough and wild men shouldering the portable shrine while occasionally fighting. It’ll leave you amazed. Among those men, some are covered head to toe in tattoos, real Yakuza men, and that in itself is a sight worth seeing.  

 

Festival Date: The 3rd Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in May of each year.

※ Held May 13 (Fri.), 14 (Sat), 15 (Sun) in 2016  

Place: Asakusa Shrine and surrounding area [2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo]

Access: -7 min. walk from Asakusa station [Tokyo Metro Ginza line, Toei-Asakusa line, Tobu line]

Url: http://www.asakusajinja.jp/english/    

[caption id="attachment_13978" align="aligncenter" width="850"]Kanda Matsuri Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: chiyoda-tokyo.sakura.ne.jp Kanda Matsuri[/caption]

Kanda Matsuri [神田祭]

1 of the 3 grandest of all festivals in Japan, alongside Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri [祇園祭] and Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri [天神祭]. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the samurai shogun who was the first to unify Japan, started this festival which has continued for over 400 years. The festival is held once every 2 years (odd years) for over a period of 6 days in mid-May (the festival will not be held in 2016.) The even bustles with people especially during the day of Shinkosai [神幸祭], during which the portable shrine of Kanda Shrine is carried throughout Kanda, Nihonbashi, Tokyo station area, and Akihabara, and the following day’s mikoshi miyairi [神輿宮入] - 100 portable shrines for shrine parishioners enter the shrine to pay a “visit” one by one. The two day spectacle draws massive crowds. The sight and atmosphere of the shrine being carried around town is full of energy and power.  

 

Festival Date: Shinkosai [神幸祭] the closest Saturday to May 15th; Mikoshi miyairi [神輿宮入] held on the following day of Shinkosai.  

Place: Kana Shrine [2-16-2 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo]

Access:

-5 min. walk from Ochanomizu station [JR lines, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi line]

-5 min. walk from Shin-Ochanomizu station [Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line]

-5 min. walk from Suehirocho station [Tokyo Metro Ginza line]

-7 min. walk from Akihabara station [JR lines, Tokyo Metro Hibiya line]  


June  

[caption id="attachment_13963" align="aligncenter" width="850"]Sanno Matsuri in Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: chiyoda-tokyo.sakura.ne.jp Sanno Matsuri in Tokyo Japan[/caption]

Sanno Matsuri [山王祭]

Along with Kanda Festival and Fukugawa Festival, Sanno Matsuri rounds up the 3 major Edo (old Tokyo) festivals. Sanno Festivals goes back 400 years and is held once every 2 years (even years),  during early to mid June lasting for 11 days. (June 7th (Tue)〜17th(Fri) in 2016).

The festival alternates years with Kanda Festival (celebrated during odd years). The meaning and style is similar to Kanda Festival, but differs in the celebrated number of days and has a large variety of events. Also the ceremony of carrying the portable shrine is not as rough or wild. The highlight of Sanno Festival is Shinkosai. 3 large portable shrines - mikoshi - and 3 floats are paraded around by 500 shrine parishioners wearing traditional costumes. The parade of parishioners extending 300 meters long going through the central districts of Tokyo such as Kokkaikijido, Ginza, and Tokyo station is very impressive. Seeing children ages 3-6 years old in costumes walking through a large grass-weaved ring (festival procession) is adorable and fun to watch.  

 

Festival Date: Early June〜Mid-June of each year. ※ 2016 from June 7 (Tue)〜17 (Fri)  

Place: Hie Shrine (日枝神社) [2-10-5 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo]

Access:

-3 min. walk from Tameike-Sanno station [Tokyo Metro Ginza, Nanboku lines]

-5 min. walk from Kokkaigijido-Mae station [Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line]

Tel: 03-3581-2471

Url: http://www.tenkamatsuri.jp  


July  

 

Tanabata Matsuri [七夕まつり]   Festival Date: July 7th

 

  • The origin of Tanabata comes from China and is folklore about lovers in the stars. Following its origin, many Japanese lovers go out on a date on this day, but the main event is writing one’s hope or wish on a strip of paper in 1 of 5 colors and hanging it on the leaves of a bamboo tree, praying for it to come true. The bamboo trees decorated in stripes of 5 color papers look quite elegant. 
  • [caption id="attachment_13979" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri Photo Credit: tabisuke.arukikata.co.jp Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri[/caption]
  • Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri [湘南ひらつか七夕まつり]   

The Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri is one of the 3 biggest Tanabata festivals in Japan, the 2 others being Sendai Tanabata Matsuri [仙台七夕まつり] and Anjo Tanabata Matsuri [安城七夕まつり]. Sendai’s Tanabata festival is the original and though Shonan Hiratsuka’s Tanabata festival is only 70 years old, the 1.6 million turn out each year proves it to be a major event. During the festival, everywhere you look, there are Tanabata decorations, but in the town center there are over 500 colorful decorations looming tall in large numbers on bamboos. It is truly a magnificent sight. The decorations hanging from the bamboo vary in style with some gorgeously hanging 10 meters long to others that illuminate when it gets dark.  

 

Festival Date: held yearly on the weekend either before or after July 7th.

※ July 8th, 2016 (Fri)〜July 10th (Sun), 2016  

Place: Near the market street of JR Hiratsuka station, North Exit [1-1 Takaracho, Hiratsuka-shi, Kanagawa]  

Access: Hiratsuka station [JR Tokaido Main line, Shonan-Shinjuku line]

Tel: 0463-35-8107 

Url: http://www.tanabata-hiratsuka.com  


August  

Nothing beats fireworks during summer in Japan! The scale and beauty of the fireworks are among the best of the world. It’d be nice to say “it’s No.1 in the world,” but there could be a possibility that your country has magnificent fireworks too (though hard to believe). An unbelievable 8,000 fireworks festivals are held each year in Japan, with most scheduled in August. Over 1 million spectators are easily drawn to the more popular fireworks and things get pretty packed. But even then, watching the fireworks go off is worth the pain! More details of each firework event worth seeing is explained here:Fireworks Festivals.  

 

There are also many other kinds of festivals in each area.  

[caption id="attachment_13980" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Fukugawa Matsuri Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: http://koto-kanko.jp/event/fukagawahachiman-maturi2014/ Fukugawa Matsuri[/caption]

Fukugawa Matsuri [深川祭]  

1 of the 3 major Edo (old Tokyo) festivals. The others being Kanda Matsuri [神田祭] and Sanno Matsuri [山王祭]. The festival has been going on for 370 years. The event takes place around August 15th and celebrated for 4 days. Unlike Kanda Matsuri and Sanno Matsuri, Fukugawa Matsuri is held every year with the “main” festival occurring once every 3 years (the next main event will be in 2017.) Every year 120 “Mikoshi” or portable shrines are shouldered and carried, butin the year of the main festival, 50 grander Mikoshis are carried around in front of 500,000 spectators. No doubt it is exciting and fun. Onlookers get to participate in the festivities by throwing purified water at the carried shrine and the bearers of the shrine. This practice is customary. There are some people who even use a fire hose, so be prepared to get drained.  

 

Festival Date: held yearly around August 15th.  

Place: Tomioka Hachimangu [1-20-3 Tomioka, Koto-ku, Tokyo]

Access: 3 min. walk from Monzen-Nakacho station [Tokyo Metro Tozai line]

Tel: 03-3642-1315

Url: http://www.tomiokahachimangu.or.jp  

[caption id="attachment_13981" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Asakusa Samba carnival Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: jiji.com Asakusa Samba Carnival[/caption]

Asakusa Samba Carnival [浅草サンバカーニバル]   
Copying the Rio de Janeiro Samba Carnival, it was first held in Japan in 1981 and now has 20 teams, 5,000 team members, and 500,000 spectators, it’s become a fun, large-scale event.  

 

Festival Date: Last Saturday of August, 13:00〜18:00  

Place: Between Umami dori (street) [馬道通り]〜Kaminarimon [雷門] [Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo]

Access:

-Near Tawaramachi station [Tokyo Metro Ginza line]

-Near Asakusa station [Tokyo Metro Ginza, Toei-Asakusa line, Tobu line]

Tel: 03-3847-0038 

Url:  http://www.asakusa-samba.org/  

[caption id="attachment_13964" align="aligncenter" width="690"]Tokyo Koenji Awaodori Festival Photo Credit: gotokyo.org Tokyo Koenji Awaodori Festival[/caption]

Tokyo Koenji Awaodori [東京高円寺阿波おどり]

Koenji Awaodori is a huge festival with over 1 million spectators. The original Awaodori festival is held in Tokushima prefecture and has a history dating back 400 years. It is arguably 1 of the best 3 festivals in Japan Near 150 groups and 10,000 dancers compete at a high level at the Tokyo Koenji Awaodori festival. The event is perfect for those of you who can’t make your way to Tokushima.  

 

Festival Date: Last weekend of August, 17:00〜20:00  

Place: Koenji

Access:

-3 min. walk from Koenji station [JR Chuo, Sobu lines]

-3 min. walk from Shin-koenji station [Tokyo Metro Marunouchi line]  

Tel: 03-3312-2728

Url: http://www.koenji-awaodori.com  


September  

[caption id="attachment_13966" align="aligncenter" width="780"]Tsurugaoka Hachimangu no Reitaisai Festival Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: www.uedade.jp Tsurugaoka Hachimangu no Reitaisai Festival[/caption]

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu no Reitaisai (regularly held festival) [鶴岡八幡宮の例大祭]

  The first Shogun ( general) of Japan, Minamoto no Yoritomo’s visit to an event in 1187, was the beginning of this festival that has continued to be held every year since. Particularly the horseback archery on the 3rd day, the 16th, from 1:00pm is very famous. It is a courageous Shinto ritual in which Kamakura era samurai archers wear their hunting suit and ride a horse while shooting through 3 targets. The 2nd day, 15th, is a Shinto ceremony in the morning, followed by an afternoon parade around town with 3 portable shrines and a great number of people in a procession wearing ancient costumes.  

 

Festival Date: September 14~16  

Place: 2-1-31 Kinoshita, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa

Access: -10 min. walk from Kamakura station [JR Yokosuka line]

Tel: 0467-22-0315

Url: http://www.tsurugaoka-hachimangu.jp  


October  

October is the second busiest month of festivities after August. From ancient times, each area has a autumn festival in prayer for a good harvest. Though not a traditional event, Halloween has become extremely popular these past few years. Visit Shibuya on the evening of October 31st, and you’ll see thousands of young people in costumes ( most outfits are popular characters from that year, famous people, zombies etc.) along with people dressed “normal” for people watching. That number grows to tens of thousands of people overflowing the streets of Shibuya, similar to a commuter train holding more people than it can manage, but it’s worth seeing.    

[caption id="attachment_13967" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Kawagoe Matsuri Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: jehcl.net Kawagoe Matsuri[/caption]

Kawagoe Matsuri [川越祭り]    

Kawagoe Matsuri has a 360 year long history with over 1 million spectators and is among the top 3 float festivals in the Kanto region, along with Chichibuyo Matsuri and Sawara no Taisai Luxurious and gorgeous floats with large dolls resembling historical figures and protagonists from tall tales are paraded around town. The highlight is the Hikkawase, which is when 2 floats meet on the street, face each other and have a  dance-off to an old Japanese-style orchestra. Basically it’s like a dance battle with floats! The shrine parishioners energetically yell louder and louder as the music and dance tempo gets faster and faster as the festival reaches its climax. Kawagoe, where the event is held, is commonly called old-Tokyo town, and the streets, stores, and houses have been kept in goid condition since Edo era. It’s a very refined town.  

 

Festival Date: 3rd Saturday and Sunday of October (yearly)  

Place: Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine [2-11-3 Miyashitamachi, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama] or [the town center of Kawagoe]  

Access: [From Tokyo]

- From Ikebukuro station [池袋駅], take the Tobu-Tojo Express train and alight at Kawagoe station [川越駅] (Expected travel time: 30 min.)

- From Shinjuku station [新宿駅] take the Saikyo Rapid line and alight at Kawagoe station [川越駅] (Expected travel time: 50 min.)

- From Seibu-Shinjuku station [西武新宿駅], take the Seibu-Shinjuku Express train and alight at Hon-Kawagoe station [本川越駅] (Expected travel time: 60 min.)

Tel: 049-225-2727

Url: http://www.kawagoematsuri.jp/English/index.html  

[caption id="attachment_13968" align="aligncenter" width="4335"]Sawara no Taisai Festival Chiba Japan Photo Credit: maruchiba.jp Sawara no Taisai Festival[/caption]

Sawara no Taisai[佐原の大祭]

 Sawara no Taisai is the generic name for the 2 festivals that occur in summer (July) and autumn (October.) It is regarded as 1 of the 3 major float festivals in the Kanto region along with Kawagoe Matsuri and Chichibuyo Matsuri. The festival has been celebrated for more than 300 years drawing 500,000 spectators each year. 10 floats are paraded in summer and 14 in autumn. The autumn festival is also more happening. There are 2 special traits to this festival. The first is the impressively decorated dolls on the 2nd floor of the floats leave a strong impact. These dolls are motifs of historical figures and stand 4〜5 meters tall. The second is the acrobatic way the floats are pulled around.  

 

Festival Date:

- Summer Festival Yasaka Shrine Gion Matsuri: First Friday, Saturday, Sunday after July 9th.

- Fall Festival Suwa Shrine Aki Matsuri: 2nd Friday, Saturday, Sunday of October.

Place:

Summer Festival: Yasuka Shrine area [3360 Sawarai, Katori-shi, Chiba]

Autumn Festival: Suwa Shrine area [1020 Sawarai, Katori-shi, Chiba]  

Access:

[From Tokyo] Take the JR Sobu Rapid line from Tokyo station and alight at Sawara station [佐原駅]

- 5 min. Walk from Sawara station [佐原駅] to Suwa Shrine [諏訪神社]

- 10 min. walk from Sawara station to Yasaka Shrine [八坂神社]

Expected travel time: 2 hours.

Tel: 0478-54-1111

Url: http://www.city.katori.lg.jp/sightseeing/multilingual/index.html  


November  

There are festivals in November, but not many.  

 

Tori no Ichi [酉の市] Festival Dates: November 11th (Fri) and 23rd (Wed) (in 2016) 

The origin of this festival was to show gratitude to God for a good harvest, but nowadays is a prayer for prosperous business. Many business men and women who are in commerce visit and buy a decorated rake [熊手] that brings good fortune. If you want to succeed in business, why not buy one? Whether you bought the decorated rake or not, or just a shopkeeper, participating in the ceremonial hand-clapping is pretty fun.

 

The below 3 spots are particularly happening.  

[caption id="attachment_13983" align="aligncenter" width="740"]Asakusa Tori no Ichi Festival Otori Shrine Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: gotrip.jp Asakusa Tori no Ichi Festival Otori Shrine[/caption]

① Asakusa Tori no Ichi [Otori Shrine (鷲神社)  and Chokokuji Temple (長國寺)] 

Place: Otori Srine/Chokokuji Temple [3-18-7 Senzoku, Taito-ku, Tokyo]  

Access: 8 min. walk from Iriya station [Tokyo Metro Hibiya line]  

Otori Shrine: http://www.otorisama.or.jp/english.html  

Chokokuji Temple: http://www.torinoichi.jp/english/index.htm

[caption id="attachment_13969" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Tori no Ichi Festival Hanazono Shrine Shinjuku Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: power-spot.jp Tori no Ichi Festival Hanazono Shrine in Tokyo[/caption]

② Hanazono Shrine [花園神社]

Place: 5-17-3 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo  

Access:

-1 min. walk from Shinjuku-Sanchome station [Tokyo Metro Marunouchi, Fukutoshin lines, Toei-Shinjuku line]

-7 min walk from Shinjuku station [JR lines, Odakyu line, Keio line]  

Url: http://www.hanazono-jinja.or.jp/mt/top/    

[caption id="attachment_13970" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Tori no Ichi Festival in Okunitama Tokyo Japan Photo Credit: meisei-shouji.co.jp Tori no Ichi Festival in Okunitama Tokyo[/caption]

③ Okunitama Shrine [大國魂神社]

Place: 3-1 Miyamachi, Fuchu-shi, Toyko

Access:

-5 min. walk from Fuchu station [Keio line]

-5 min. walk from Fuchu-Hommachi station [JR Nanbu, Musashino line]

Url: https://www.ookunitamajinja.or.jp  


December  

Few festivals are held in December, the coldness is one reason why.  

[caption id="attachment_13971" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Chichibu Matsuri Festival Saitama Japan Photo Credit: chichibu-omotenashi.com Chichibu Matsuri Festival in Saitama[/caption]

Chichibu Masturi [秩父夜祭]

With a history dating back 350 years, the festival is famous for their gorgeous and luxurious floats and fireworks. Attracting over 200,000 people every year, it is among the “3 most beautiful festivals in Japan” as well as 1 of the “3 biggest float festivals in Japan”, the other two being Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Hida’s Takayama Matsuri. The festival is held from December 1st~6th every year. The crowd gets into it the most from the afternoon of the 2nd until the end of the 3rd with the float parade and fireworks set off. The highlight of the festival is on December 3rd from 7pm~10pm during which the 6 floats line up and fireworks light up the night sky.

 

Festival Dates: December 1st~6th  

Place: Near Chichibu Shrine [1-3 Banbamachi, Chichibu-shi, Saitama]  

Access: -11 min. walk from Seibu-Chichibu station [From Ikebukuro station, take the Seibu-Ikebukuro Express (急行) and transfer at Hanno station for Seibu-Chichibu station] Expected travel time: 1 hr 40 min.

*On December 3rd only there is a direct express train “Limited Express Red Arrow (特急レッドアロー号)” that goes directly to Seibu-Chichibu station from Ikebukuro. There is a train about every 30 min. Expected travel time: 1 hr 30 min.  

Tel: 0494-21-2277

Url: http://www.chichibu-jinja.or.jp/yomatsuri/