Festivals in Japan

What are they?

It is said that there are around 300,000 festivals every year in all over Japan.
Some of them started long time ago and some started relatively recently.
Each festival has their own origin and theme, and some festivals are so famous that they attract people from other prefectures or even from other countries.

Festivals by seasons


Spring means a fresh start to Japanese probably because spring is the season that we plant rice.
As a matter of fact, school starts from April, fiscal (financial) year also starts from April and so on.

As such festivals in spring started to pray to gods (yes, we have a lot of gods in Japan) that they will be given an abundant harvest in the fall. So in some festivals they actually do rice-planting, and in others they mock one.
One of the famous festival of actual rice-planting is “Otaue-shinji” in Osaka.


There are three types of festivals in this season.
One is for getting rid of infectious diseases. In the past, infectious diseases were going around big cities like Kyoto and Osaka in summer and it was believed to be because gods were giving divine punishment.
That’s why those festivals were meant to appease gods.

Another type of festivals is for getting rid of pests and typhoons.
In summer, a lot of pests are active and there are so many typhoons that can cause huge damage to farmers.
So in rural areas where people farmed, their big concern in summer was (has been) to getting rid of pests and typhoons.
That’s why they have festivals to pray gods that they would not have bad impacts from those pests and weather.
The famous festival of this kind is “Nebuta matsuri” in Aomori prefecture.

Photo Credit: satoagg Flickr via Compfight cc

The last type of festivals is memorial service to the spirits of ancestors.
It is said that at this time of the year, the spirits of the dead are coming back.
And this festival is to welcome them with bright fires so that they will not get lost.
The famous one of this kind is “Gozan okuribi” in Kyoto.

Photo Credit: kubotake Flickr via Compfight cc


In contrast to Spring, fall is when we reap the harvest.
There are many festivals for thanking gods for the abundant harvest by providing them with the newly harvested crops.
The most famous festival for this is “Kannname-sai” in Ise shrine in Mie prefecture.


There are not so many traditional festivals in winter because it was hard to survive winter in the past so they tried not to waste their energy and stay inside to wait for the spring to come.
However, nowadays there are many winter festivals in order to attract tourists. One example of such is “Yuki matsuri” in Hokkaido prefecture.

photo credit: かがみ~ さっぽろ雪まつり Sapporo Snow Festival 2015 via photopin (license)


Festivals have different outlooks depending on their locatoins and seasons.
Now, why don’t you come see these in Japan in person?

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