This Japanese festival information was compiled in cooperation with the Tourist Information Center of the Japan National Tourist Organization. (10th floor, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan Bldg., 2-10-1, Yurakucho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo; (03) 3201-3331). Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Tanashi Daruma Ichi
Tanashi Daruma Ichi (Dharma Doll Fair) at Tanashisan Soji-ji Temple, Tanashicho, Nishitokyo in the suburbs of Tokyo. Stalls selling Dharma dolls are set up in the temple compound from around 9 a.m. to around 4 p.m.
Access: 30 minutes by the Seibu Shinjuku Line from Seibu Shinjuku Station to Tanashi Station (north exit), and then walk 5 minutes.
Nagatoro Hi-Matsuri, a fire festival at Nagatoro-machi, Chichibu-gun, Saitama Prefecture. Rengyo (a parade of mountain priests) leaves the grounds in front of Nagatoro Station at 12:30 p.m. for the parking lot, where hi-watari (rigorous religious practice of walking on hot coals) takes place from 1 p.m. to around 2:30 p.m. Anyone may participate in this practice toward the end of the event.
Access: (1) The Tobu Tojo Line to Yorii Station From there, the Chichibu Tetsudo Railway to Nagatoro Station, and then walk 15 minutes to the site.
(2) 1 hr. 30 minutes by Seibu Railway’s Limited Express, “Red Arrow,” from Ikebukuro Station to Seibu Chichibu Station, and then walk about 5 minutes to Ohanabatake Station From there, take the Chichibu Tetsudo Railway to Nagatoro Station, and then walk 15 minutes to the site.
Chiyoda-no-Sakura Matsuri, the cherry blossom festival at Yasukuni Shrine, Chiyoda-ku. One can enjoy a view of cherry blossoms along the Chidorigafuchi path and in the precincts of Yasukuni Shrine until around 10 p.m., as flowers are lit up in the evening. The festival period could vary depending on cherry flowering.
Access: The Tozai, Hanzomon or Toei Shinjuku Subway Line to Kudanshita Station (T 07, Z 06, S 05) , and then walk 5 minutes to Yasukuni Shrine and Chidorigafuchi.
Bokutei Sakura Matsuri
Bokutei Sakura Matsuri, the cherry blossom festival at Sumida Koen Park, Sumida-ku. Some events are scheduled on Sakurabashi Bridge over the Sumida River on Saturdays and Sundays during the period. The festival period could vary depending on cherry flowering.
Access: The Ginza or Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Asakusa Station (G 19, A 18)
Feb. 8-March 9
Yushima Tenjin Ume Matsuri
Yushima Tenjin Ume Matsuri, a Japanese plum blossom festival at Yushima Tenjin Shrine, Bunkyo-ku. Nodate (an open-air tea ceremony) is held at 11 a.m. on March 2 and 9. A tea ticket is ¥500. Taiko (Japanese drumming) and other entertainments are scheduled for every Saturday and Sunday during the festival period.
Access: The Chiyoda Subway Line to Yushima Station (C 13).
March 3-March 4
Jindaiji Daruma Ichi
Jindaiji Daruma Ichi (Dharma Doll Fair) at Jindaiji Temple, Chofu in the suburbs of Tokyo. About 300 stalls selling Dharma dolls, temple charms, trinkets and so on are set up along the way to the temple from 9 a.m. to around 5 p.m. on both days.
Access: (1) The Keio Line to Tsutsujigaoka Station (north exit) or Chofu Station (north exit). From there, 15 minutes by bus for Jindaiji, and get off at Jindaiji Bus Stop.
(2) The JR Chuo Line to Kichijoji Station (south exit) or Mitaka Station (south exit). From there, 30 minutes by bus for Jindaiji, and get off at Jindaiji Bus Stop.
March 7-March 9
Heiwajima Zenkoku Komingu Kotto Matsuri
Heiwajima Zenkoku Komingu Kotto Matsuri (Heiwajima Antique Fair) is held at Heiwajima Tokyo Ryutsu Center, Ota-ku, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (to 4 p.m. on the 9th) daily during the period. (Please enter at least an hour before the closing time.) More than 280 dealers participate in this fair. Admission is free.
Access: The Tokyo Monorail Line from Hamamatsucho Station to Ryutsu Center Station
Feb. 15-March 9
Sankei-en Kanbai-kai or Ume Matsuri, a Japanese plum blossom festival in Sankei-en Garden, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. This Japanese-style landscaped garden has about 600 Japanese plum trees, and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is ¥500.
Access: (1) The JR Negishi Line to Negishi Station. From there, 10 minutes by bus to Honmoku Bus Stop, and then walk 7 minutes.
(2) The JR Keihin Tohoku, JR Tokaido or the Tokyu Toyoko Line to Yokohama Station (east exit). From there, 35 minutes by bus to Honmoku Sankeien-mae Bus Stop, and then walk 3 minutes.
Hi-watari-Sai, the rigorous religious practice of walking on hot coals at Takaosan Yakuoin Temple, Hachioji on the outskirts of Tokyo. Following the lighting ceremony, yamabushi (mountain priests) walk barefoot on the burning embers from 1 p.m. This is believed to drive away the sins and filth of the world. Anyone may participate in this practice toward the end of the event.
Access: The Keio Line from Shinjuku Station to Takaosan-guchi Station, and then walk 5 minutes to Jidosha Kitoden-Hiroba .
Kanbai Shimin Matsuri
Kanbai Shimin Matsuri, a Japanese plum blossom festival at Yoshino Baigo in Ome on the outskirts of Tokyo. There are about 25,000 Japanese plum trees usually in full bloom on the day. Various events such as Japanese drumming, shishimai (lion dance) and a tea ceremony are held on Jindaibashi-dori Street and in Ume-no-Koen Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If it rains, all the events will be postponed to the 23rd.
Access: The JR Ome Line to Hinatawada Station, and then walk 15 minutes to the park.
Feb. 8-March 16
Yugawara-bairin “Ume-no-Utage,” a Japanese plum blossom festival at Makuyama Park in Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. Visitors can enjoy viewing about 4,000 Japanese plum trees in blossom from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily during the period. Admission is ¥200. The trees are lit up from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. from March 1-9 daily (no admission fee).
Access: The JR Tokaido Line to Yugawara Station, and then take the direct bus (about 15 minutes) for Makuyama Park that is available during the period.
Kinryu-no-mai, Golden Dragon Dance at Sensoji Temple, Taito-ku. The dance to pray for a rich harvest of the year is performed three times at 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on the temple grounds. In the event of rain, it will be canceled.
Access: The Ginza or Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Asakusa Station (G 19, A 18)
March 21-April 6
Ueno Sakura Matsuri
Ueno Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) at Ueno Park, Taito-ku. People can enjoy viewing about 1,200 cherry trees in bloom even in the evening, as thousands of bonbori (paper lanterns) are lit up from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Some events are scheduled around Shinobazu-no-ike Pond in the park daily during the period. The festival period could vary depending on the cherry blossoms.
Access: The JR Yamanote Line, the Ginza or Hibiya Subway Line to Ueno Station (G 16, H 17)
March 22-March 23
Anime Japan 2014
Anime Japan 2014 is held at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba. The fair is the world’s largest in scale of this kind and brings together anime-related Japanese and overseas companies. It’s open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (enter by 4:30 p.m.). Advance tickets are ¥1500 and are available at Seven-Eleven, Gamers, Animate, Shosen and CN playguide. (Unsold tickets may be available day-of at the venue.)
Access: (1) The Yurikamome Line from Shinbashi Station to Kokusaitenjijo-seimon Station, and then walk 3 minutes.
(2) The Rinkai Line to Kokusaitenjijo Station, and then walk 7 minutes.
(3) About 30 minutes by kmFlower Bus from Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal, or about 40 minutes by Toei Bus (No. 05) from Tokyo Station (Marunouchi south exit) to Tokyo Big Sight.
Shinkisai or Taimatsu Matsuri (Torchlight Festival) at Kameido Tenjin (Tenmangu) Shrine, Koto-ku, features a torchlit parade of about 200 children & adults from around 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. In the event of rain, the parade will be canceled, and only the Shinto ritual will be held indoors.
Access: The JR Sobu Line to Kameido Station or Kinshicho Station, and then walk 15 minutes.
Yudate-no-Shishi-mai (Lion Dance of Suwa Shrine) Hakone-machi, Ashigara-Shimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture, from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. One of shishimai lion dances, Kama-Meguri-no-mai is known for splashing hot water over visitors with bamboo leaves. It is said that people getting splashed by the water is a blessing of good health for the year.
Access: (1) The JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, JR Tokaido Line or the Odakyu Line to Odawara Station. From there, about 50 minutes by Hakone Tozan Bus to Sengoku Bus Stop., and then walk 5 minutes to the shrine.
(2) Hakone Tozan Line from Odawara Station to Hakone Yumoto Station. From there 25 minutes by Hakone Tozan Bus to Sengoku Bus Stop and then walk 5 minutes.
March 29-April 6
Kan-ou-no-Yube, a cherry blossom-viewing festival at night, in Sankei-en Garden, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. This Japanese-style landscaped garden has about 300 cherry trees. One can enjoy cherry blossom-viewing even in the evening, since the garden is lit up until 9 p.m. during the period. Admission to the garden is ¥500. The festival period could vary depending on the cherry blossoms.
Access: (1) The JR Negishi Line to Negishi Station From there, 10 minutes by bus to Honmoku Bus Stop, and then walk 7 minutes.
(2) The JR Keihin Tohoku, JR Tokaido or the Tokyu Toyoko Line to Yokohama Station (east exit). From there, 30 minutes by bus to Honmoku Sankeien-mae Bus Stop, and then walk 3 minutes.
Feb. 20-March 31
Mito-no-Ume Matsuri, a Japanese plum blossom festival at Kairakuen Garden, Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture. Various events are scheduled, such as (1) hina-nagashi, the event of floating paper dolls down on a stream from 11 a.m. on March 2, and from 10:30 a.m. on March 8, and (2) nodate (an open-air tea ceremony) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 2, 9, 16 and 23. Admission to this garden is free.
Access: (1) The JR Joban Line to Kairakuen Rinji Station (temporary station). Direct local trains & Limited Express trains leaving Ueno Station between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. are operated on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays during the period.
(2) The JR Joban Line to Mito Station, and then 20 minutes by bus to Kairakuen Bus Stop.
Odawara Sakura Matsuri
Odawara Sakura Matsuri, a cherry blossom festival in Joshi Koen Park, Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. One can enjoy viewing the 350 blooming cherry trees in the garden even in the evening, as blossoms are lit up during the period. Chigo-gyoretsu (a parade of children in fancy attire) is held from 1 p.m. to around 2 p.m. on April 6. The festival period could vary depending on the cherry blossoms.
Access: (1) The JR Tokaido Shinkansen or the JR Tokaido Line to Odawara Station, and then walk 7 minutes.
(2) 1 hr. 10 minutes by Odakyu Limited Express “Romance Car,” or 1 hour and 40 minutes by Odakyu Rapid Express from Shinjuku Station to Odawara Station, and then walk 7 minutes.
Festivals outside of Kanto
Hote Matsuri Festival
Hote Matsuri Festival at Shiogama Shrine, Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture. This festival has a 300-year history. A parade of a gigantic mikoshi (portable shrine, weighing 1 ton) carried by sixteen young men, accompanied by about 500 people and children in traditional attire, departs from the shrine at 12:30 p.m. to march through the city and return at 8 p.m.
Access: The JR Senseki Line from Sendai Station to Hon-Shiogama Station, and then walk 10 minutes.
Jan. 11-March 9
Atami Baien Ume Matsuri
Atami Baien Ume Matsuri, a Japanese plum festival at Atami Baien (a Japanese plum garden), Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture. There are about 450 Japanese plum trees of 60 species in the garden and they begin to bloom usually from the middle of January. Various entertainments are scheduled during the period. The garden is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is ¥300.
Access: (1) The JR Ito Line to Kinomiya Station, and then walk 10 minutes.
(2) The JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line or JR Tokaido Honsen Line to Atami Station. From there, 15 minutes by bus bound for Ainohara-Danchi or Baien, and then get off at Baien-mae Bus Stop.
Feb. 5-March 10
Kawazu-zakura Matsuri, a cherry blossom festival in Kawazu, Kamo-gun, Shizuoka Prefecture. Distinctively rich pink kawazu-zakura blossoms come into bloom in February. One can enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms along the Kawazu River, even at night until 9 p.m., since the blossoms are lit up daily during the period.
Access: (1) 2 hrs. 30 minutes by JR Limited Express “Odoriko” from Tokyo Station to Kawazu Station.
(2) 50 minutes by the Izukyuko Line from Ito Station on the JR Ito Line to Kawazu Station.
Yuzawa Onsen Yuki Matsuri
Yuzawa Onsen Yuki Matsuri, a snow festival at Nunoba Skiing Ground in Echigo-Yuzawa Onsen, Yuzawa-machi, Minami-Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, features a parade of about 100 skiers with torches starting at around 8:40 p.m. and a fireworks display from 8:50 p.m. to 9 p.m. Some other events, such as a mikoshi parade from 6:15 p.m. and Japanese drumming from 7:20 p.m., are scheduled.
Access: The JR Joetsu Line or JR Joetsu Shinkansen Line to Echigo-Yuzawa Station, and then walk 15 minutes.
Wakasa-no-Omizu-okuri, Sacred Water-sending Ritual
Wakasa-no-Omizu-okuri (Sacred Water-sending Ritual) at Wakasa Jinguji Temple, Obama, Fukui Prefecture. Rituals including yumiuchi (Japanese archery) and dattan (priests brandishing torches), both to exorcise evil spirits, are conducted from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The highlight of the rites is the taimatsu gyoretsu (torch procession) which leaves Jinguji Temple at around 7:30 p.m. for the place called “Unose”, where the Omizu-okuri ritual (priests pouring sacred water into the Onyu Rriver) takes place from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. It is believed that the water from Unose reaches the wakasa-i (well) on the grounds of Todaiji Temple in Nara 10 days later, on March 12th, when the Omizu-tori (Sacred Water-drawing Ritual) in Nara is held.
Access: The JR Obama Line to Obama Station From there, 20 minutes by temporary bus (\500) to Jinguji Temple (leaving JR Obama Station between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the day).
Hadaka Oshiai Matsuri
Hadaka Oshiai Matsuri (Naked Festival) at Bishamondo of Fukoji Temple, Minami-Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture. This festival with a 1,200-year history is to pray for a rich harvest of the year, and is designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Property. The highlight of this festival is hadaka-oshiai, in which about 500 young men clad only in loincloths purify themselves in cold water, and then jostle each other for advantage to get kifuda (wooden tablets of prize coupons) in Bishamondo Hall several times from 6 p.m. to around 11 p.m.
Access: The JR Joetsu Line or JR Joetsu Shinkansen Line to Urasa Station, and then walk 5 minutes.
Fujimori-no-Ta-asobi, at Oi Hachimangu Shrine, Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture This is a festival to pray for a bumper crop, and is designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. Parishioners perform kagura (a Shinto dance of the process of rice cultivation) to the tune of Japanese flute and drum from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Access: The JR Tokaido Honsen Line to Fujieda Station. From there 20 minutes by bus for Habuchi and get off at Oigawa Chosha Iriguchi Bus Stop and walk 15 minutes.
March 1-March 14
Shuni-e or Omizu-tori (Sacred Water-drawing Ritual) at Nigatsu-do, Todaiji Temple, Nara, Nara Prefecture. The ritual Omizu-tori in which the monks draw the water from the wakasa-i (well) to dedicate it to Buddha is held in the flickering light of pine torches at 2 a.m. on the 13th. This festival with an over a 1,260-year history is also called Otaimatsu (Torch Rites) and symbolizes the arrival of spring. The Otaimatsu rites are conducted by young ascetics with torches from around 7 p.m. for 20 minutes (from 7:30 p.m. for 45 minutes on the 12th, and from 6:30 p.m. for 10 minutes on the 14th) daily during the period. The ascetic monks brandish huge burning pine torches to produce a shower of sparks on the balcony of the Nigatsu-do temple. As sparks are believed to have magic power against evil, the devout rush to catch them.
Access: (1) From Nara Station on the JR Nara Line or Kintetsu Nara Station on the Kintetsu Nara Line, 5 minutes by bus to Daibutsuden Kasugataisha-mae Bus Stop, and then walk 5 minutes.
(2) Walk 20 minutes from Kintetsu Nara Station.
March 15-March 16
Sagicho Matsuri Festival
Sagicho Matsuri Festival at Himure Hachiman Shrine, Omi-Hachiman, Shiga Prefecture. Thirteen sagicho, beautiful floats bedecked with foods and grains, are carried through the city by men in women’s dresses and makeup from 2 p.m. to around 5:30 p.m. on both days. The highlight of the festival comes on the 16th, when all the floats gather in the precincts of the shrine around 6 p.m., and are burnt one after another at the firework signal let off from around 8 p.m. to 10:40 p.m.
Access: The JR Tokaido Line to Omi-Hachiman Station (north exit), and then walk 30 minutes, or temporary buses to the shrine operated from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days.
March 25-March 31
Yakushiji Shuni-e Hana-e-shiki
Yakushiji Shuni-e Hana-e-shiki (Flower Offering Ceremony) at Yakushiji Temple, Nara, Nara Prefecture. This festival symbolizes the arrival of spring, and is to pray for prosperity. The interior of the temple’s main hall is lavishly decorated with a variety of flowers. Events include bunraku (Japanese traditional puppet theater) at 1 p.m. on the 26th, noh and kyogen (traditional masked drama and comedy) at 1 p.m. on the 28th, Chigo-Gyoretsu (procession of children in fancy attire) at 1 p.m. on the 29th and 30th, and Oni-oi-shiki (rites to dispel the five rampaging devils) at around 8:30 p.m. on the 31st.
Access: The Kintetsu Kashihara Line to Nishinokyo Station, and then walk 2 minutes or the JR Nara Line to Nara Station, and then 17 minutes by bus to Yakushiji Bus Stop.
March 25-April 7
Kitano Odori, Japanese traditional dance by geiko
Kitano Odori, traditional Japanese dance by geiko (professional entertainers) at Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theater, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto. Performances are held twice from 1:30 p.m. & 4 p.m. daily during the period. Admission is ¥4,000 (or ¥4,500 with a bowl of green tea included).
Access: 30 minutes by municipal bus No. 50 or 101 from Kyoto Station to Kitano Tenmangu-mae Bus Stop, and then walk 3-5 minutes.
March 28-March 30
Kyoto Grand Antique Fair
Kyoto Grand Antique Fair at PULSE PLAZA, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, is held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (to 4 p.m. on the 30th) daily during the fair period, with about 330 dealers participating. Admission to this in this bargain-hunting event is free.
Access: The Kintetsu Kyoto Line or the Karasuma Subway Line to Takeda Station, and then walk 15 minutes to PULSE PLAZA. (Shuttle buses are available from the west exit of Takeda Station to the site during the fair period.)
KYUSHU & OKINAWA
Feb. 11-April 3
Yanagawa Hina Matsuri Sagemon Meguri
Yanagawa Hina Matsuri Sagemon Meguri (Girl’s Festival) of Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture. Sagemon are hand-sewn ornaments displayed all over the city for this festival. When a baby girl is born, her mother and grandmothers sew sagemon stitch by stitch wishing her to grow up healthy, and hang them up next to hina dolls to celebrate her first Girl’s Festival. On Feb. 11, a procession of children and adults in traditional hina doll attire, and floats adorned with colorful sagemon, takes place starting at 10 a.m. On March 16, a parade of children and adults dressed in Hina doll costumes sitting on boats sail through the canals bedecked with sagemon, from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. On April 3, nagashibina (a floating paper dolls ceremony) starts a 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Many more events are scheduled during the period.
Access: The JR Kyushu Shinkansen Line or JR Kagoshima Honsen Line to Chikugo Funagoya Station, and then 21 minutes by the Nishitetsu Bus to Yanagawa Bus Stop.
Feb. 15-March 31
Tenryo Hita Ohina-Matsuri
Tenryo Hita Ohina-Matsuri (Girl’s Festival) of Hita, Oita Prefecture The Hita area prospered under the reign of Tenryo (Tokugawa Shogunate dependency) in the Edo era. Hina ningyo (traditional Japanese dolls) which have been preserved and handed down for generations are displayed at about 20 houses in the city, where everybody can visit and view from around 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the festival period.
Access: (1) Mameda-machi and Kuma-machi: The JR Kyudai Honsen Line to Hita Station, and then walk 20 minutes.
(2) Amagase-machi: The JR Kyudai Honsen Line to Amagase Station.
Aso-no-Hi-Matsuri, Fire Festival in Aso National Park, Kumamoto Prefecture (Hi-moji-yaki on the 8th)
Aso-no-Hi-Matsuri, (Fire Festival in Aso National Park) Kumamoto Prefecture. Hi-moji-yaki (a grass fire in the shape of the Chinese character that means “fire”) kindled on the slopes of Mt. Ojo-dake and Honzuka, starts at 6 p.m. on the 8th, and a fireworks display is held from 7:30 p.m. On the 14th, Hifuri-shinji, a Shinto ritual in which parishioners brandish burning torches to pray for a good harvest, takes place in the precincts of Aso Shrine from around 6:30 p.m. to around 8 p.m. This ritual is designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
Access: (1) Hi-moji-yaki: The JR Hohi Line to Aso Station. From there, take a bus for Uchinomaki Onsen, and then get off at Hana-aso-bi Bus Stop.
(2) Hifuri-shinji: The JR Hohi Line to Miyaji Station and then walk 15 minutes or 5 minutes by taxi to Aso Shrine.