The 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.
Osame-no Suitengu or Year-end Fair at Suitengu Shrine, Chuo-ku, is held from 8 a.m. to around 5 pm. Open-air stalls selling New Year’s decorations and the like are set up in the precincts. Suitengu is temporarily moved to another location for restoration.
Access: (1) The Toei Shinjuku Subway Line to Hamacho Station (S 10), and then walk 1 min.
(2) The Hanzomon Subway Line to Suitengu-mae Station (Z 10), and then walk 7 min.
(3) The Hibiya or Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Ningyocho Station (H 13, A 14), and then walk 10 min.
December 7-December 8
Zen-Nippon Karate-do Senshu-ken Taikai
Zen-Nippon Karate-do Senshu-ken Taikai or All-Japan Karate Championship takes place at Tokyo Budokan Hall, Adachi-ku, for a team competition from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the 7th, and at Nippon Budokan Hall, Chiyoda-ku, for an individual competition from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the 8th. Admission is ¥2,000, effective for 2 days in both sites.
Access: (1) Tokyo Budokan: The Chiyoda Subway Line to Ayase Station (C 19) East Exit, and then walk 5 min.
(2) Nippon Budokan: The Tozai, Hanzomon or Toei Shinjuku Subway Line to Kudanshita Station (T 07, Z 06, S 05), and then walk 5 min.
December 9-December 10
Seki-no Boro Ichi
Seki-no Boro Ichi (Rag Fair) at Honryuji Temple and its neighboring area, Nerima-ku. It originated from an agricultural fair, but now the stalls sell clothes, food, toys and plants from 10 a.m. to around 10 p.m. on the 9th, and from 10 a.m. to around 9 p.m. on the 10th. The highlight of this fair is Manto Gyoretsu (a procession of people, some holding lanterns and others sounding bells and drums) from 7:30 p.m. to around 9:30 p.m. on the 9th.
Access: The Seibu Shinjuku Line to Musashi-seki Station (North Exit), and then walk 3 min.
December 13-December 15
Heiwajima Antique Fair
Heiwajima Antique Fair is held at Heiwajima Tokyo Ryutsu Center, Ota-ku, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (enter by 4 p.m. on the 15th) daily during the period. More than 280 dealers participate in this fair. Admission is free.
Access: The Tokyo Monorail Line to Ryutsu Center Sta.
December 17-December 19
Hagoita Ichi or a shuttlecock and battledore fair in the compound of Senso-ji Temple, Taito-ku, is held from 9 a.m. during the period. Hagoita is a wooden paddle (originally used in Hanetsuki or the traditional badminton-like game), and is often decorated with the figures of popular Kabuki actors and is made of elaborate silk collages. It is usually displayed in the house as a New Year’s ornament.
Access: The Ginza or Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Asakusa Station (G 19, A 18)
Osame-no Daishi or Year-end Fair at Nishiarai Daishi Temple, Adachi-ku, is held from 9 a.m. to around 5 pm. Open-air stalls selling Kumade (ornamental bamboo rakes adorned with symbols of good luck for the New Year) are set up in the compound.
Access: The Tobu Isezaki Line to Nishiarai Sta., and there change to the Tobu Daishi Line to Daishi-mae Sta.
Tenno Tanjo-bi or Emperor’s Birthday (the national holiday). The public is permitted to enter the Imperial Palace grounds which are usually closed, via Nijubashi Bridge, to offer their congratulations to the Emperor and His Family annually. The Imperial Family will appear on the balcony to acknowledge the crowd. Hours are still to be arranged, as of Nov. 25.
Access: The Chiyoda Subway Line to Nijubashi-mae Station (C 10)
Osame-no Jizo or Year-end Fair at Togenuki Jizo Temple (or Koganji Temple), Toshima-ku, is held from 10 a.m. to around 6 pm.
Access: The JR Yamanote Line or the Toei Mita Subway Line to Sugamo Station (I 15), and then walk 5 min.
December 27-December 29
Toshi-no Ichi or O-Deko Ichi, Year-end Fair around Yagenbori Fudoson Temple, Chuo-ku, features many open-air stalls selling New Year’s decorations, clothes, shoes, bags and the like from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day during the fair period.
Access: (1) The Toei Asakusa Subway Line to Higashi-Nihombashi Station (A 15)
(2) JR Sobu Line’s Rapid Train (Kaisoku) to Bakurocho Sta., and then walk 5 min.
(3) The Toei Shinjuku Subway Line to Bakuro-Yokoyama Station (S 09), and then walk 5 min.
Osame-no Fudo or Year-end Fair is held at the following Fudoson Temples: 1. Fukagawa Fudoson Temple, Koto-ku, from 9:30 a.m. to 8 pm.
Access: The Tozai or Toei Oedo Subway Line to Monzen-Nakacho Station (T 12, E 15), and then walk 2 min.
Misoka Ichi or Year-end Fair in the precincts of Okunitama Shrine, Fuchu, on the outskirts of Tokyo, features open-air stalls selling New Year’s decorations from 10 a.m. to around 6 pm.
Access: (1) 25 min. by Limited Express Train on the Keio Line from Shinjuku to Fuchu Sta., and then walk 5 min.
(2) The JR Nambu Line to Fuchu-Honmachi Sta., and then walk 5 min.
Omisoka or New Year’s Eve, the last day of the year. Many people stay at home and sit up until midnight to listen to Joya-no-Kane, or 108 peals of the temple bell, which ring out the old year and ring in the coming year. Joya-no-Kane are sounded at the most temples. The followings are well-known temples in Tokyo: 1. Zojoji Temple, Minato-ku
Access: (1) The Toei Mita Subway Line to Onarimon Station (I 06), and then walk 3 min.
(2) The Toei Asakusa or Oedo Subway Line to Daimon Station (A 09, E 20), and then walk 5 min.
December 2-December 3
Chichibu Yo-Matsuri or Night Festival in Chichibu, Saitama Pref. The festival, counted as one of the three grandest float festivals in Japan, and is designated as one of the National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Assets. It is highlighted by a parade of six huge, lavishly adorned and lantern-lit floats continually from 12 noon to 4:30 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the 2nd, and from 9 a.m. to around midnight on the 3rd. While parading, local Kabuki plays are performed on the floats from 1 p.m. to 3:30 pm, and also on the makeshift stage in the parking lot of Yao Department Store from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the 3rd. A fireworks display is scheduled at Hitsujiyama Koen from 7 p.m. on the 2nd, and from 7:30 p.m. on the 3rd.
Access: The Seibu Ikebukuro Line to Seibu-Chichibu Station (about 2 hrs. by Seibu Ikebukuro Line’s Express Train ã\750ã or 1 hr. 20 min. by Seibu Ikebukuro Line’s Limited Express Red Arrow, and then walk 15 min.
December 7-December 8
Teppo Matsuri or Gun Festival at Iida Hachiman Shrine, Ogano-machi, Saitama Pref. On the 8th, the events are scheduled as follows: (1) a performance of local Kabuki from 11 a.m. and from 7:30 pm, (2) Daimyo Gyoretsu, a feudal lord procession from 3:30 pm, (3) the highlight of this festival, Otachi Shinji in which two sacred horses gallop up the steps to the Shrine, amid a volley of rifle shots into the air, from around 4 pm, and (4) Mikoshi (portable shrines) and floats parading through the town from around 5 pm.
Access: The Seibu Ikebukuro Line to Seibu-Chichibu Station. From there, 50 min. by bus for Kurio, and then get off at Kurio Bus Stop.
Nincho-no-mai & Miyabito-no-mai
Nincho-no-mai & Miyabito-no-mai or Ancient Court Dances at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Kamakura, Kanagawa Pref. A Shinto priest clad in a white robe and four Shrine maidens in Juni-hitoe or 12-layer ceremonial garments of court ladies perform Nincho-no-mai dance & Miyabito-no-mai dance from around 5 p.m. to around 7 pm.
Access: JR Yokosuka Line to Kamakura Sta., and then walk 10 min.
Osame-no Daishi or Year-end Fair at Kawasaki Daishi Temple, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Pref., is held from around 9 a.m. to 3:30 pm. This fair is one of the biggest of its kind in Tokyo and Vicinity.
Access: The Keihin Kyuko Line to Keikyu-Kawasaki Station. From there, the Keihin Kyuko Daishi Line to Kawasaki Daishi Sta., and then walk 5 min.
Osame-no Fudo or Year-end Fair at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, Narita, Chiba Pref. Otakiage or a fire ceremony is held in the compound of the temple from around 10:30 a.m. to around 1 pm. Open-air stalls are set up along the main street leading to the temple from 7 a.m. to 4 pm.
Access: (1) JR Sobu Line’s Rapid Train “AIRPORT NARITA” to Narita Sta., and then walk 10 min.
(2) The Keisei Line to Narita Sta., and then walk 10 min.
Yokohama Chukagai “Count Down”
Yokohama Chukagai “Count Down” or the year-end count down event is held at Kantei-byo and Maso-byo in Chinatown, Yokohama, Kanagawa Pref. Shishimai (Lion Dance) is performed on the grounds of Chuka Gakuin School from around midnight on Dec. 31st. Kantei-byo: A joss (house) for a Chinese hero, Kantei or Guan Yu (?ï½219)
Maso-byo: A joss for Maso or Ma Zhu (960-987), a Goddess of the Sea
Access: (1) The Minatomirai Line to Motomachi-Chukagai Sta., and then walk 5 min.
(2) The JR Negishi Line (or the JR Keihin Tohoku Line from Tokyo) to Ishikawacho Sta., and then walk 10 min.
Festivals outside of Kanto
Namahage (folklore demons that pay frightening visits to children of local houses) in Oga, Akita Pref., is designated as one of the National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Assets. Local groups of Namahage-masked men, disguised as devils, visit private houses in the villages in the evening, grumbling “Any good-for-nothing fellow hereabouts?” A demonstration of Namahage in action and Taiko drumming is held in the parking-lot of the City Hall from 3:00 p.m. to 3:30 pm. After being purified at Shinzan Shrine, fifteen Namahage also visit Japanese-style inns, Ryokan and Minshuku, in the city from around 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for the guests.
Access: The JR Oga Line to Oga Station. and then walk 5 min. to Oga City Hall.
December 28-March 2
Zao Juhyo Light-up
Zao Juhyo Light-up at Zao Onsen Ski Ground, Yamagata, Yamagata Pref., features the lights lit over Juhyo known as “Ice Monster”, trees covered with frost, along the Zao Ropeway Sancho Line and around Jizo Sancho Sta., from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the following days; Dec. 28th-Jan. 5th, 11th, 12th, 18th, 19th, 25th-Mar. 2nd. On Feb. 1st, an event in which skiers and snowboarders holding torchlights descend on the Uwanodai ski slope under a fireworks display is held from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 pm.
Access: The JR Ou Honsen Line or JR Yamagata Shinkansen Line to Yamagata Station. From there, 45 min. by bus to Zao Onsen Bus Stop, and then walk 15 min. to Uwanodai Gelande Ropeway Sta.
December 8-December 23
Atami Kaijo Hanabi Taikai
Atami Kaijo Hanabi Taikai or Fireworks Display over Atami Bay, Atami, Shizuoka Pref., is scheduled from 8:20 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. (about 3,000 fireworks) on each day.
Access: The JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line or the JR Tokaido Honsen Line to Atami Sta.
Ike-no-ue Misogi Matsuri
Ike-no-ue Misogi Matsuri (Hadaka Matsuri), or Naked Festival of Katsuragake Shrine, Gifu, Gifu Pref. The highlight of the festival is Misogi (purification and exorcism) conducted by over 100 youths clad in loincloths, diving into the Nagara River three times at 3 pm, 7 p.m. and 10 pm.
Access: 15 min. by Gifu Bus from JR Gifu Station or Meitetsu Gifu Station to Chusetsu-bashi Bus Stop, and then walk 5 min.
Gion Corner Winter Tokubetsu Koen
Gion Corner Winter Tokubetsu Koen, or Winter Special Performance at Gion Corner, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. The demonstration of several kinds of traditional Japanese entertainments and arts is staged twice a day from 6 p.m. and from 7 pm, every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and national holidays during the period (except from Dec. 29th to Jan. 3rd). Admission is ¥3,150, (¥2,500 for foreigners). For further information, call 075-561-1119 (in English).
Access: 25 min. by municipal bus No. 206 and No. 100 from Kyoto Sta., and then get off at Gion Bus Stop.
December 5-December 16
Kobe Luminarie, Kobe, Hyogo Pref., is an event featuring grand electric decoration which started in 1995, to console the spirit of the victims of Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. The electric decoration is illuminated along the street about 300 meters long, through which people are allowed to go on foot. The venues are Kyu-Gaikokujin Kyoryuchi (the former residential area exclusively for foreign residents), and Higashi Yuenchi (playground). Hours are as follows: Monday to Thursday (6 pm-9 pm), Friday (6 pm-10 pm), Saturday (5 pm-10 pm) and Sunday (5 pm-9:30 pm), but hours will be subject to change due to overcrowding.
Access: The JR Kobe Line to Motomachi Sta., and then walk 5 min. to Kyu-Gaikokujin Kyoryuchi, which leads to Higashi Yuenchi.
Hari-kuyo, or the solemn rite of respect and thanksgiving for broken needles and pins at Horinji Temple, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto, is heldfrom 1 p.m. to 2 pm. During the “Hari-kuyo” ritual, Orihime-no-mai dance by four ladies dressed like Orihime (Vega) is performed to the tune of Gagaku (court music) for about 10 min.
Access: (1) The JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama Sta., and then walk 15 min.
(2) 30 min. by bus for Arashiyama from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama Bus Stop, and then walk 5 min.
December 9-December 10
Narutaki-no-Daikon Daki, or Japanese radish cooking at Ryotokuji Temple, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto. Japanese radishes are cooked in a big pan and served to the visitors at the temple from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (¥900). This festival has its origin in a historical fact: Villagers served boiled radishes to Shinran, the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Pure Land Buddhism, when he visited Ryotokuji Temple. It is said that this radish is efficacious against palsy.
Access: 40 min. by municipal bus (Shibasu) No. 26 from Kyoto Station to Narutaki-Honmachi Bus Stop, and then walk 5 min.
Ako Gishi-sai or memorial celebrations popularly known as the “Vendetta of the 47 Ronin or masterless Samurai”, is held in Ako, Hyogo Pref. A parade of “47 Ronin” accompanied by feudal lords, following a drum & fife band, folk dancers and floats, starts from Otemon Gate of Ako Castle at 10 am, passing through the city’s busiest streets and reaches the final destination Ikitsugi-Hiroba Square around 3 pm. Many more events are scheduled at Ako Castle, Kagakuji Temple and Oishi Shrine.
Access: The JR Shinkansen Line or Sanyo Line to Aioi Sta., from there, change for the JR Ako Line to Banshu-Ako Sta.ï¼and then walk 15 min. to Ako Castle.
December 15-December 18
Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri Festival
Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri Festival of Kasuga Wakamiya Shrine, Nara, Nara Pref., designated as one of the National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Assets. It features a long procession of priests, warriors clad in armor, people in costumes of local traditional arts and of the Heian period (12th century) and the like, daily during the period. On the 17th, Owatari or the main procession starts from Kencho (Prefectural Office) at 12 noon and arrives at Otabisho (portable shrine resting place) around 3 pm, and there Kagura (Shinto dance), Bugaku (court dance and music) and various local performing arts are dedicated to the Shrine continually from 3:30 p.m. to around 10:30 pm. Eventually the procession returns to Wakamiya Shrine before midnight. Many more events are held on the main streets of the city and at the Shrine during the festival period.
Access: By Nara Kotsu Bus from Kintetsu Nara Station or JR Nara Station to Kasuga Taisha Omotesando Bus Stop, and then walk 10 min.
Shimai Kobo or Year-end Fair at Toji Temple, Minami-ku, Kyoto. The fair is held on the 21st every month, but the last fair of the year draws especially large crowds. Open-air stalls selling used Kimono, potted plants, used books, New Year’s decorations and the like are set up from 8 a.m. until around 4 pm.
Access: (1) The JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Kyoto Sta., and then walk 15 min.
(2) The Kintetsu Line to Toji Sta., and then walk 10 min.
Shimai Tenjin or Year-end Fair at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto, features open-air stalls selling New Year’s decorations and plum berries which have ripened in this Shrine, from dawn till dark. The fair is as large in scale as the one at Toji Temple on Dec. 21st.
Access: 30 min. by municipal bus (Shibasu) No. 50 or 101 from Kyoto Sta., and then get off at Kitano Tenmangu-mae Bus Stop.
Okera-mairi, or the traditional year-end festival at Yasaka Shrine, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, is held from about 7 p.m. through 5 a.m. of Jan. 1st. The climax of this festival comes around 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Jan. 1st, when a large number of worshipers visit the Shrine to bring home the sacred fire with rope kindled there with which they cook the first meal of the year. This custom is believed to help ward off illness in the coming year.
Access: 20 min. by municipal bus (Shibasu) No. 206 (bound for Higashiyama-dori Kitaoji Bus Terminal) from Kyoto Sta., and then get off at Gion Bus Stop.
CHUGOKU & SHIKOKU
Chinka-sai or Fire Festival at Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Pref. A priest brings a fragment of sacred fire from the Shrine to the Mikasa-hama beach and lights a big torch placed on the beach. Then young men race to be the first to kindle their torches with the sacred fire, and jostle each other between the stone Torii gate and the entrance of the Shrine, from 6 p.m. to around 6:40 pm.
Access: (1) The JR Sanyo Line to Miyajima-guchi Sta., and then walk a few min. to Miyajima-guchi Pier. From there, 10 min. by ferryboat to Miyajima, and then walk 10 min. to the Shrine.
(2) 30 min. by streetcar or by bus from Hiroshima Station to Hiroshima Ujina Port. From there, 30 min. by hydrofoil to Miyajima, and then walk 10 min. to the Shrine.
KYUSHU & OKINAWA
Kusajishi-shiki or the Japanese archery ritual, Kagoshima, Kagoshima Pref., is held from 11am to 12:40 p.m. in the Sengan-en which is a fine specimen of Japanese landscape gardening, constructed more than 350 years ago by the feudal lord of that time. The archers dressed in ceremonial robes shoot arrows at the targets (figures of a deer) according to traditional Ogasawara-ryu (school) rites. Admission to the garden is ¥1,000, and open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
Access: The JR Kyushu Shinkansen Line or Kagoshima Honsen Line to Kagoshima-chuo Station (East Exit), from there about 40 min. by bus to Sengan-en mae Bus Stop
December 7-December 14
Takaharu-no-Kanme or Sacred Shinto Dance, Takaharu, Miyazaki Pref., is the generic name of Sano Kagura and Haraigawa Kagura, each with a 500-year history, and is designated as the National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset. Sano Kagura is performed in front of the second Torii gate of Sano Shrine on the 7th, and Haraigawa Kagura is performed in front of Haraigawa Kaguraden of Kirishima Higashi Shrine on the 14th, both on the makeshift stages from 7 p.m. through the midnight until 7 a.m. of the following day.
Access: The JR Kitto (Ebino-Kogen) Line to Takaharu Station. From there take the Miyazaki Kotsu Bus for Haraigawa and get off at Sano Bus Stop or Haraigawa Bus Stop, and then walk 2-5 min to each Shrine.