Festivals in JapanEdit This
Japan festivals reflect the historical, cultural and religious tenets of Japanese society and are as integral to modern Japanese culture as they were hundreds of years ago. There are so many important festivals throughout the country of Japan that attempting to point out a few key events and locations can prove problematic, but a visit to any of the following festivals will prove a memorable experience.
Hokkaido: Sapporo Snow Festival
The Hokkaido prefecture, located about 4 and half hours north of Tokyo by train, is the northernmost area of Japan and has the harshest winters. The area is thus famous for snow and winter activities and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival is one uniquely Hokkaidoan celebration that over two million visitors partake in each year. Usually held in February, the Sapporo Snow Festival in Odori Park highlights the art of hundreds of professional and amateur ice and snow sculptors who build incredibly large, sometimes interactive, snow and ice attractions, such as sculptures and mazes. Visitors are also asked to join in the fun in the Satarando area, where you can build your own snowman.
The New Year Festival (throughout Japan)
The New Year is the most important holiday in all of Japan, largely because of ancient religious and cultural associations of new beginnings and putting the worst of the past behind you once a year--essentially, starting the year with a new slate. As a part of the celebration, even the non-religious Japanese still head to a Shinto Shrine or Buddhist Temple sometime during the first week of the New Year, where they pray for good fortune in the new year, purchase fortune telling slips to predict their luck for the new year and enjoy playing games and eating food at the various booths set up around the Shrine. It's traditional for Japanese women to wear kimono during this celebration.
No matter where you're headed in Japan, there's sure to be a New Year Festival at the nearest Shinto Shrine or Buddhist Temple. However, one of the most popular shrines for this festival is the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in Narita City in Chiba Prefecture in the midst of the Greater Tokyo Area. Over 12 million visitors visit this Buddhist Temple during the holiday season each year.
Sakura Matsuri: Cherry Blossom Festival (throughout Japan)
Another countrywide festival of which you'll want to be a part is the Sakura Matsuri, the Cherry Blossom Festival, which takes place throughout the country in the spring each year. During March, April and May (your location may affect the prime time to partake in the festival), people throughout the country head to the nearest park with sakura trees (cherry trees) and partake in hanami, which means "flower viewing." They spread out blankets and have picnics with friends, family and colleagues. During these picnics, adults usually drink and everyone may participate in a game of karaoke. The gorgeous falling pink petals make for an impressive view.
The father south you are, the earlier you'll want to go see the cherry blossoms. In Tokyo, the best time is sometime during April. The most popular spots in Tokyo for the festival includeYoyogi Park and Aoyama Cemetery.