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Almost each shrine in Japan celebrates a festival of its own. As a result, there are innumerable festivals in Japan. Called Masturi in Japanese, most of the Japanese festivals are held annually to celebrate the deity of a shrine or commemorate any historical or seasonal event. Though some Japanese festivals are a one day affair, most festivals are celebrated over many days. Procession is an important element of festivals in Japan. In their festival processions, Japanese carry the deity of a local shrine around the town in palanquins. The following are some of the most famous festivals of Japan.
1. Sapporo Yuki Matsuri / さっぽろ雪まつり
One of the most popular winter festivals of Japan, Sapporo Yuki Matsuri is celebrated for a week in February in Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido Island. This festival was started in 1950, when a few Japanese students created a few snow statues in the Odori Park. Since then, Sapporo Yuki Matsuri has evolved into a big and commercial festival, featuring spectacular ice and snow sculptures. Sapporo Yuki Matsuri attracts around 2 million visitors from Japan and all over the world.
2. Omizutori / お水取り
Though celebrated as a festival, Omizutori is a religious ceremony of Buddhist. This festival is held every year at the Todaiji Temple’s Nigatsudo Hall from March 01 to March 14. The burning of torches on the balcony of the Nigatsudo temple in the night is the most spectacular ceremony of Omizutori.
3. Takayama Matsuri / 高山祭
Takayama Matsuri is held every year in spring and autumn. In this festival, Japanese pull large and decorated floats through the old Takayama town.
4. Sanja Matsuri / 三社祭
Sanja Matsuri is one of most famous festivals of Tokyo. This festival is celebrated in the Asakusa Shrine. In this festival, people carry Mikoshi through the streets of Asakusa.
5. Kyoto Gion Matsuri / 祇園祭
Celebrated over the entire month of July, Kyoto Gion Matsuri is regarded as one of the most famous festivals of Japan. This festival is held in Yasaka Shrine. Kyoto Gion Matsuri features several events. However, the Yamaboko Junko and Yoiyama are the most notable events of this festival. In the Yamaboko event, people take out a procession with 20-meter tall floats on July 17. Yoiyama is the festive evening that precedes the procession.
6. Nebuta Matsuri / 青森ねぶた祭り
Nebuta Matsuri is celebrated from August 02 to 07 every year in the Aomori prefecture. A daily parade of large lantern floats is the most important feature of Nebuta Matsuri.
7. Kanto Matsuri / 竿燈祭り
Kanto Matsuri is celebrated from August 03 to August 06 every year in Akita city. In this festival, the members of the festival parade balance over 200 bamboo poles with up to 46 lanterns tied with each pole.
8. Awa Odori / 阿波踊り
Awa Odori is one of the most famous traditional dance festivals of Japan. This festival is celebrated thoughout Japan in mid August during the obon season.
9. Nagasaki Kunchi / 長崎くんち
A festival of Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki, Nagasaki Kunchi is celebrated each year from October 7 to October 09. Ship shaped floats and Chinese style dragon are the most distinguishing characteristics of this festival.
10. Jidai Matsuri / 時代祭り
This is one of the most notable historical festivals of Japan. This festival takes place on the October 22, the foundation day of Kyoto. In this festival, a parade covers over 1000 years of the Japanese history when Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan. The festival parade starts from the Kyoto imperial palace and ends at the Heian shrine.
When people associate fun, culture, tradition, and history with festivals, they usually talk about Japanese festivals. All festivals of Japan vividly represent the history, culture, tradition and belief of the people living in this land.