On the festival circuit


Festivals in December?

S and J are coming to Japan in mid-December. “My husband will be on business but not all of the time and I’d like to show him around. Are there any festivals , or is everything geared toward Christmas ?”

Be assured that there are festivals near every day in some part of the country at this time. Since S is Tokyo-based, I have picked out those in and around the Kanto region or in Kyoto and its environs, since S says she is taking J there.

You have only to go the Web site www.japanvisitor.com to find the full listing for the country for the whole year. Just click on Japan festivals and then the month in which you are most interested. Chichibu Yomatsuri Dec. 2-3 Chichibu, Saitama Famous night festival in which lantern-lit floats weighing more than 10 tons each are pulled through the town. Akibasan Gongen Hibuse Matsuri Dec. 6 Ryokaku-in Temple, Odawara Mountain priests offer thanks for water and fire by lighting fires, giving demonstrations of their ax, sword and archery skills and offering rice cakes to visitors. 47 Ronin Festival Dec. 14 Bishamon Temple, Yamashina, Kyoto A procession commemorating the 47 Ronin with people in traditional costume walking from Bishamon Temple to Oishi jinja in eastern Kyoto. Setagaya no Boro Ichi Dec. 15-16 Setagaya-ku, Tokyo Countless stalls and shoppers crowd the streets at this flea market that dates back to 1578. A huge range of items to browse and buy including antiques, secondhand goods and food. Akiba no Himatsuri Dec. 15-16 Akiba, Shizuoka Prefecture Fire festival held to pray for protection against fire held at Akiba Jinja, a Shinto shrine that enshrines Hifuse, the god of fire prevention. Kasuga Wakamiya Festival Dec. 17 Kasuga Taisha, Nara A chance to see rarely performed traditional dances at a festival that has been observed every year since it began in 1136. A two-hour procession through central Nara begins at noon from the Prefectural Office followed by around seven hours of dances. Izumi Kannon Daruma-ichi Dec. 17-18 Izumi Kannon Temple, Odawara This temple has been holding “daruma” (a manifestation of the Buddha) fairs for every year over 400. It attracts large crowds. Asakusa Kannon Hagoita-ichi Dec. 17-19 Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo Festive market selling hagoita, the paddles used in “hanetsuki,” a game traditionally played at New Year. Around 50 stallholders crowd into the grounds of the temple over the two days. Shimai Kobo Dec. 21 To-ji Temple, Kyoto This large festive market honors Kobo Daishi with over 1600 stalls selling antiques, foods and just about everything else. Shimai Tenjin Dec. 25 Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto The last festive market of the year at this large shrine in northwest Kyoto.