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You Will Have More Fun If You Know These! The Charms of Japan’s Festivals

Various festivals ("matsuri" in Japanese) are held in Japan throughout the year. This article will showcase the appeals of Japan’s festivals. Double your fun by knowing these facts!

What is a Matsuri?

While these festivals can be summed up in one word, there are actually many different types of festivals in Japan. For instance, there are ceremonies for worshiping, praying to, thanking, and memorializing deities and ancestral spirits in shrines and temples. Another type of festival is the events that are held in local commercial centers and other spots to commemorate some kind of anniversary, celebration, or promotion. While these festivals have different scales and purposes, the majority of them have rituals and events as the centerpiece of the festival, as well as stalls selling food and games. They also have their own distinctive feel in the air. The appeals of festivals vary depending on the kind of festival – from exuberant and wild festivals, up to festivals with elegant atmospheres.

Types of Festivals in Japan

1. Shrines/Temples

At festivals held in shrines and temples, there are mikoshi (portable shrines), dashi (floats), and jiguruma (carts). You can enjoy seeing people parading while clad in traditional costumes, and you can even take part in various joyous events! The scales of these festivals vary, but many of them are attended by visitors from all over Japan.

2. Fireworks Displays

Fireworks displays (“hanabi taikai” in Japanese) are mainly held in the summer. If you come to any one of these events, you will see magical spectacles consisting of thousands to tens of thousands of fireworks launching into the sky, creating huge flowers.

3. Festivals in Shopping Districts

Commercial and shopping arcades in every town in Japan celebrate events according to their individual calendars. They also throw festivals to commemorate anniversaries and other celebrations. While the themes of these festivals differ, they generally feature special stages, and stalls offering food and games.

4. Gourmet Festivals

Festivals with food as the theme have become increasingly popular in recent years. Many of them are held for each genre of food, such as B-class dishes (cheap and popular dishes) and sweets. The venues of these events offer a collection of stalls from shops that take pride in the taste of their dishes. Enjoy eating while walking to your heart’s content!

5. Others

There are lots of other events that can also be considered as festivals. The Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) and Momiji Matsuri (Autumn Foliage Festival) that are held at spots known for their cherry blossoms and autumn leaves are events where guests will get to enjoy beautiful sights and stalls. There are also many festivals for music, art, movies, and animations.

Wide Array of Stalls

1. Food

One of the fun things to look forward to in any festival are the stalls (“yatai” in Japanese) that fill the venue and line the surrounding areas. Many of these stalls sell a wide variety of food and drinks. Typically, they offer light snacks, such as takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes), along with sweets like cotton candy and candied apples.

2. Games

There are many stalls where you can enjoy simple games. The typical games that you will find in festivals are Kingyo Sukui (Goldfish Scooping) – wherein you scoop goldfish using a tool that has thin paper covering a circular frame, the Super Ball Sukui (Ball Scooping) – wherein you scoop small balls, and Yo-yo Tsuri (Yo-yo Fishing) – wherein you fish for yo-yos (water balloons with strings that you can play like a yo-yo) with an implement that is comprised of a paper handle and wire.

3. Shopping

Many of the stalls in festivals at shrines, temples, and fireworks festivals offer food and games, but there are also stalls that sell toys, handicrafts, accessories, and other miscellaneous goods. Furthermore, there are festivals that are centered on stalls selling goods, such as the Furuhon Matsuri (Old Books Festival) and the Toki Matsuri (Pottery Festival).

Reminders When Going to Festivals

It is imperative that you gather information well in advance if you plan on taking part in any festival. There are many things that you might not enjoy in festivals, such as the crowds of people in parades and fireworks displays. There are major festivals that have bleachers or grandstand seats for spectators, so it would be best to check beforehand. Note that if these are paid seats, they may get sold out. If they are free, then you need to secure a spot early. In the case of fireworks festivals, the spectators go home en masse after the fireworks are over, so transportation facilities could get really crowded. With that in mind, move with time to spare. If you have a companion, it is possible that you’d lose each other, so you would feel much safer if you decide on a meeting place.

Please check this article before you go to any festival, and make sure to have fun!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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