A festival is very important and significant part of Japanese culture. There are a great number of festivals in Japan, and there's something special for every season of the year. I wish I had discovered that earlier so I could have experienced more festivals than I have! But I explored Japan by myself and each time ‘new’ things opened to me.
What I appreciate most in Japanese festivals is the unity of people of all ages, and the connection with their ancestors. At festivals I saw people old and young, even little kids and teenagers, all enjoying and sharing the atmosphere of a festival. Each time my appreciation of that unity grew and steadily I understood the strength of Japanese people.
Walking in those festival zones I soaked into the atmosphere of joy created by everyone. People around me cheered up the musicians and dancers, enjoyed festivals treats bought in colorful tents, took photos and smiled – that was fantastic!
As I’ve mentioned above, festivals are held all year round in big cities and small villages. There are unique festivals held in one place, such as Aizu-wakamatsu Historical Parade, 1000 Samurai Procession in Nikko, Nada no Kenka Matsuri in Himeji, Saidaiji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri (Naked Men festival) in Okayama, the festival of giant lighted platforms Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori, and many, many others.
I was fortunate to watch spring festivals of blooming sakura called hanami for several years in a row. The first time I was surprised by such a massive celebration – I wondered why it was celebrated if spring and blooming season happened every year? But later I understood the spirit of hanami, it's an atmosphere of joy and hope.
Besides the blooming sakura, many other blooms are also celebrated, such as the Bunkyo Azalea festival, Ajisai (Hydrangea) festival at Nezu Shrine, and the Fuji Festival at Kameido Shrine in Tokyo. During festivals I often enjoyed traditional Japanese music, particularly at the Kagurazaka Matsuri with its dancing procession which lasted about 3 hours - it seemed endless!
I’m sure that festivals in Japan must be visited for a deeper understanding of the country. For more information about festivals in Japan, please check the events section on Japan Travel.