Japanese festivals are good windows into traditional culture

Japanese festivals, or matsuri (see pronunciation guide), are very traditional events. They have been celebrated for a great many years and are overflowing with traditional culture. Japanese festivals are probably what many people picture when they picture Japan. Let's explore them a little.

There are local festivals and national festivals.

Local festivals

Local festivals are typically sponsored by a local temple or shrine. The day and event depends on the area and may change from year to year. These are a mixed bag in terms of what they are for. Sometimes they are held to celebrate a local historic hero or event, other times a seasonal event, or sometimes a special religious day. It's really hard to tell. For example, one of the festivals from my city (Okazaki) is the Ieyasu Festival, or a celebration of the famous warlord who was born in this city hundreds of years ago.

These festivals always contain a great many stalls selling traditional food and holding traditional games for kids. They might have events such as sumo matches, karaoke contests, or many other things. I was at a matsuri last year that featured a boxing match and a kyudo (traditional japanese archery) demonstration right in a row, a slightly jarring mix of modern and traditional so close to each other.

National Festivals

National festivals are more like national holidays. No, people usually don't get off work for them. But most of them have a set date everyone agrees on (but there are exceptions) and there is a stronger purpose or reason for holding them.

I'll eventually go through all of them one by one on this page, but let's start our exploration with an upcoming one.

Girl's day

You might also see this festival called "Doll Festival" or "Hina Matsuri". It is held on March 3rd and is a day to celebrate girls, pray for their good health and happiness, and ensure they grow up beautiful and get married soon. Click to read more.


Setsubun is a day to rid your house of demons. And throw soybeans at your dad. Read on.

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