Steeped in culture and fiercely protective of its heritage, festivals are incredibly important in Japan with many people travelling from all corners of the country to attend the most important events and celebrations.
Though hundreds of small festivals and events take place across the country throughout the year, there are a few that are more important than the rest. If you happen to be staying in Japan during one of these festivals or celebrations, taking part will give you a fantastic insight into Japanese culture and an experience you’ll never forget.
The Five Biggest Events in Japan
Taking place on the 3rd or 4th of February, Setsubun is a bean throwing festival originally intended to help those taking part to drive off evil spirits.
Sweets and money are also thrown into the crowd with people rushing to secure their prize.
Today it’s a national event with celebrities often taking part and much of the festivities broadcast on TV.
Image: sk CC BY 2.0 via Flickr
Shogatsu (New Year)
The most important event in the Japanese calendar is New Year. Celebrated on the 31st December in line with western countries, New Year is a time when Japanese families come together to celebrate and have fun.
Money is traditionally given to small children and people will often eat soba noodles at the stroke of midnight, with the Emperor of Japan beginning the New Year with a dawn prayer for the nation.
Famous throughout the world, Japan’s cherry blossoms put on a spectacular show every spring with visitors coming from far and wide to view the incredible sight. Best events and festivals in Japan
The Cherry Blossom Festival, or Hanami, takes place from March to May and involves groups of friends and family picnicking, meeting and strolling beneath the blossoms to appreciate and enjoy their beauty. This is a fantastic time to be backpacking in Japan.
Image: Reginald Pentinio CC BY 2.0 via Flickr
For a week from the end of April to the 6th May, four of Japan’s most important festivals take place in quick succession. Known as ‘Golden Week’, the period is one of the busiest times to travel in Japan as people rush home to celebrate with their families. Best events and festivals in Japan
Kicking off with the birthday of Emperor Hirohito on the 29th April, this is quickly followed by Constitution Memorial Day on the 3rd May, Greenery Day on the 4th May and Children’s Day on the 5th.
A time to celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, Obon is not an official holiday but is still taken very seriously by the Japanese people.
Shrines and temples are visited, fires lit and many people place lanterns outside their homes to help guide the spirits on their journey.
A fantastic opportunity to experience authentic Japanese culture, any one of these events will enhance your time in Japan and help you to understand this complex and beautiful country a little bit better.