New Year Grand Festival at Toka Ebisu Shrine 2019 - Start a Year at a Fair
Do you have a plan to visit Fukuoka this winter? Do you have any interest in Fukuoka Prefecture? Or would you like to feel Japanese traditional atmosphere in Kyushu? If you answered “yes” to at least one of these questions, I would like to introduce you to some fantastic festivals and events in Fukuoka this winter.
First, I will tell you about Fukuoka prefecture a little bit. Fukuoka is one of the prefectures of Kyusyu (九州) island which is located in the southern part of Japan. The most popular food in Fukuoka is Tonkotsu ramen (豚骨ラーメン) which is a hot noodle soup based on the pork broth so you can stay warm by eating it even in winter. I think it is delicious. If you have a chance, please try it.
Fukuoka has not only delicious ramen but also fascinating traditional festivals. Also, some events and festivals came from western countries and are widely celebrated in Fukuoka. For example, Christmas, year-end, New-year and so on. Many local traditions and foreign traditions mixed in this prefecture. For this reason, there are a lot of unique local events, so I picked up some of them and would like to tell you more about it.
Image courtesy of Fukuoka City
In Japan, December is the beginning of winter, so you should not forget to take your jacket. Japanese winter is pretty cold, but there are some kinds of events such as Christmas and year-end events which will help you to stay warm. Christmas is a big event even for Japan, which traditionally never celebrated it. However, recently this great holiday becomes very popular in Japan.
Japanese Christmas differs from the foreign country’s ones. For example, we spend our Christmas with boyfriends or girlfriends, not family, and go to events such as Christmas markets or illumination displays. So, there are so many kinds of Christmas events. Japanese year-end events are often held in shrines and temples so you can feel Japanese traditional atmosphere when you come to the sacred places at the end of the year.
Image courtesy of あさくら写真館
This festival has been held for 300 years. People make rice paste (oshiroi – Japanese old-school cosmetic that makes the skin look white) and put it on their faces. The meaning of this ritual is to express their appreciation to God and pray fora good harvest. This is because it is believed that the god of Hakioyama mountain close to Asakura city is a lady. And the Oyamazumi shrine where the festival takes place is standing on that mountain. Thus, everyone wears oshiroi during this outstanding event.
Of course, you will see the chief priest praying. This festival is very unique for Japan. The first time I knew about this festival, I was really surprised by its originality. If you are interested in the Japanese local culture, you should try oshiroi and visit this holy event. Please check the official website of the festival for more information (Japanese only), URL: http://www.city.asakura.lg.jp/www/contents/1354257567142/index.html
Image courtesy of 加藤美月
December is the time for various Christmas markets all over Japan, and Fukuoka is not an exception. This market is held in front of Hakata station in Fukuoka city so you can access it easily. There are some gourmets and goods related to Christmas celebration. You can feel Japanese distinctive Christmas style through this market and enjoy a charming winter illumination in the precincts of the station which changes every year. Please check the official website of Fukuoka Christmas market for more information (mostly in Japanese), URL: http://christmas-market.jp/
You can also get more information about the illumination at Hakata station on Christmas from this article, URL:
About Tenjin area from the following article, URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/events/tenjin-christmas-illumination-fukuoka-beautifully-decorated-winter-lights
Image courtesy of k-maru
At this event, you will witness over 10 thousand candles that will represent various sea creatures, and anything connected with the sea. The concept of this festival is “Christmas of the sea”, and plenty of candles will definitely make you happy.
This theme of this festival is changed every year because it is selected among the civil applicants. You can enjoy it every year and of course, you can apply for designing the next theme. If you have an interest in design, you are more than welcome to try it!
Official website (Japanese only), URL: https://uminaka-park.jp/news/450.html
The concept of this festival is “The Way to Hakata” this year. This theme means that this illumination makes visitors smile and leads them to a happy future. The actual light was made with LED lights is so long, that you might even get used to it and keep on walking around for a long time. This event is held at Hakata station, so you can enjoy it easily and visit the Christmas market as well. Please refer to the official website (Mainly in Japanese), URL: https://www.jrhakatacity.com/
You can also get more information from this article, URL:
Image courtesy of プレティオ
The Canal City is a big shopping mall close to Hakata station standing on the bench of Naka River. It holds a large illumination event where the whole shopping mall along the canal is lit up by thousands of various bulbs. The characteristic of this event is the shape of its stage. Part of this shopping mall’s wall is half-sphere, so you are surrounded by the Illumination. Especially during Christmas, a limited panorama – “Santa Clause is coming to canal” (Nov 10th – Dec 25th) is the most spectacular event indeed. During this event, you will see 3D scenography and a presentation of Christmas story performed with the lights and music. There are a lot of shows at this shopping mall, so if you are interested in it, please check them! I recommend this event for families with children and couples. Please check the official website for more information (Japanese only), URL: https://canalcity.co.jp/news/event/1251
Obviously, There are a lot of New-year events in January in Japan. Almost all Japanese people have the custom to go to shrines for the New Year. The shrines have a long and traditional history, so I recommend you study it a bit before you go. You can feel Japanese traditional New Year style and it will be a great and unforgettable experience for you indeed.
Image courtesy of Fukuoka City
The purpose of this festival is to pray for prosperous business in the upcoming year. It is held in Toka Ebisu shrine (十日恵比須神社) in Fukuoka city, and the most unique event is a walk of Hakata Geiko (博多芸妓/ Hakata geisha apprentice). You will see a lot of people dressed like geisha walk to the shrine to pray. Geisha is one of the traditional Japanese jobs. They are gorgeous. So, you just cannot miss this festivity if you are in Fukuoka after the New Year! Please check the official website for more information (Japanese only), URL: http://www.tooka-ebisu.or.jp/newyear.html
This shrine is located in the center of Fukuoka city, so it is easy to access it from Hakata station. Hatsumoude (初詣) means making a wish for the coming year. Almost all Japanese people go to shrines or temples that are near their houses in January 1st to make their wishes.
In Kushida shrine, you can know your fortune from a piece of paper that is handled at the shrine. This event is held every year, and a lot of visitors really love it. Hope you will be lucky and receive a pleasant fortune for the New Year! Please refer to the official website site for more information (Japanese only), URL:
At Kokura castle (小倉城), a large rice cake is made to cook about 2000 portions of Oshiruko (おしるこ/sweet red bean soup with rice cakes) every beginning of the year. You can have an oshiruko for free on the party day. Oshiruko is a hot meal, so it makes you warm and protects you from the cold weather in January. If you love eating sweets and have an interest in Japanese sweets, you will love oshikuro! Besides, Oshikuro party provides you with a great opportunity to witness a traditional social event that unites people from the neighborhood in a friendly manner, and you can become a part of it. Please check the official website for more detail about this event (Japanese only). URL: http://www.kokura-castle.jp/
Here is a PDF brochure of Kokura castle in English: http://www.kokura-castle.jp/pamphlet/doc/kokura-castle.en.pdf
In Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine in Kurume city not far from Fukuoka city, there is a very inspiring fire festival that takes place every year in January. In the evening, large tree branches are burned in a holy fire which called onibi (鬼火). After that, several hundred men hold it on pikes and walk around the temple grounds. This fire festival has been held for over 1600 years and registered as a cultural property of Japan. The atmosphere of burning large tree branches is fantastic and you can feel the essence of Japanese local festivity. Please check the official website for more information (Japanese Only), URL: http://tamataregu.or.jp/oniyo
Also check out this article for more information in English, URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/events/daizenji-oniyo-fire-festival-fukuoka
You can see the first sun rays of New Year from the top of Sarakurayama (皿倉山). The mountain height is 662 meters so you can see not only the sunshine but also a breathtaking view of the Kitakyushu city. This spot is very popular, so I recommend you get there in advance because many people will come to see the first rays. The event is scheduled to start at 5:30 am. The route to the top of this mountain might seem a little complex, so research it before you decide to challenge it. Please check the official website for more details, URL: http://www.sarakurayama-cablecar.co.jp/index.html
In February, we have a unique event called Setsubun (節分) all over Japan. Setsubun means the last day of winter, so we believe that it will be warmer little by little after Setsubun. However, the average temperature in Fukuoka in February is around 10 degrees and sometimes it is snowing, so please keep yourself warm. You must not forget your jacket.
Setsubun is the event for protection against evil spirits. In this part, I will tell you about some Setsubun events and other Fukuoka local events.
On a Setsubun day, we have the custom to throw soybeans or peanuts inside and outside of our houses with saying “oni wa soto, fuku wa uti” (鬼は外、福は内) which means “evil (鬼) should get out and happiness (福) should come to the houses.” At Kaeru temple, people who stand on the stage throw the bags with soybeans to the crowd. And then, the crowd tries to catch the bags because there are tickets that you can exchange for great gifts inside those bags. This festival is very popular, so you should prepare yourself for getting mobbed by the crowd, especially at the time they are trying to catch the bags with soybeans.
Moreover, even visiting this Temple between Fukuoka and Kurume cities, in Ogori city will become an outstanding experience. Kaeru means frog in Japanese, and at Kaeru Temple (proper name is Nyoirinj) you will have a chance to see over 5000 tone frogs and over 2000 frog ornaments. Please refer to the official website for more information about Setsubun in the Frog Temple (Japanese only), URL: http://kanko.ogori.net/index.php?cID=199
Image courtesy of furosky
Mamemaki (豆まき) means “throwing beans.” This festival takes place at Miyajidake shrine (宮地嶽神社) that is in Fukutsu city between Fukuoka city and Kitakyushu city. People who in the year of bad luck throw soybeans to ward off their bad luck and invite good luck. They wish they can spend the year happily. They wear traditional costumes that look very freaky (as demons), so you can enjoy just looking at them.
This event differs from the Setsubun festival at Kaeru temple. However, there are so many kinds of Setsubun customs all over Japan. Almost all Japanese people throw soybeans in their houses at the beginning of February, but in Japan, there are countless Setsubun events and ways how to celebrate it. For more information please refer to the official homepage of Miyajidake Shrine (Japanese only), URL:
Here is an English pamphlet about this shrine: http://www.miyajidake.or.jp/dl/pdf/booklet.pdf
Jojima (城島) is a small area famous for sake (酒) in the south of Fukuoka Prefecture. Sake is a good match for a lot of meals such as French or Italian cuisine. In addition, it is smooth and easy to drink an alcoholic beverage.
In Jojima, there is beautiful water of Chikugo river (筑後川) and delicious rice. They are the perfect ingredients of local sake.
Japanese sake has many notes. It can be sweet, spicy, fruity, sharp, dry, bitter and so on. Recently, the number of foreign people who enjoy sake is increasing. At this festival, you can try various kinds of this traditional Japanese drink. Don’t miss your chance to try sake from different breweries at one place at this outstanding annual fair!
Please check the official website of Jojima sake festival (Japanese only), URL: http://nanbu-shoko.jp/sakagura/
And to learn more about this festival in English, please refer to this article, URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/events/jojima-sake-festival-fukuoka-brewery-hopping-matsuri
Image courtesy of daidai
The festival of Mojiko retro area which boasts some old red brick buildings includes 30 thousand light bulbs that light up the trees and historical buildings. It takes place in Moji city on the edge of Fukuoka and Yamaguchi prefectures. During this illumination event, a lot of beautiful photo spots are set so you can take some fantastic pictures. If you would like to take stunning pictures, you should go there with your camera. There is an observation deck which is 103 m high so you can enjoy not only taking pictures but also watching the view from the top. So, you should decide on the place where you will watch the view before you go there. Please check the official website for more details (Japanese only), URL: http://www.mojiko.info/event/index.html
Image courtesy of Berchan
This festival also takes place at Miyajidake shrine. Zenzai (ぜんざい) are Japanese traditional sweets which are similar to oshiruko. The difference between them is that oshiruko has sweeter red bean soup, and zenzai has a little soup that is boiled out. (It is said that the volume of liquid differs in this dish depending on the region.)
The kanji of zenzai (善哉) means “well done”, and people think of it as of good omen. So, it is believed that if you eat zenzai in Miyajidake shrine, you can stay in a perfect health condition for the rest of the year.
Please refer to the official website for more details about this festival, URL: http://www.miyajidake.or.jp/news/topics/160227_zenzai
Image courtesy of Fukuoka City
During the Japanese winter, there are a lot of fantastic festivals and events, such as Christmas, year-end, New-year events, Setsubun, and so on. Of course, besides, there is an uncountable amount of traditional Japanese festivals. Thus, it is impossible to mention all of them in one article.
So, I recommend you decide what you would like to do in Fukuoka and make your plans in detail to enjoy your trip! Please feel the original Japanese atmosphere when joining these events. I wish you will spend a great time in Fukuoka.
Alternatively, if you would like to visit Fukuoka this winter, but do not know where to go and what to see, please contact local guides, that will suggest you a proper sightseeing route according to your preferences, show you all the hidden gems of the prefecture, and open the secrets that only local people know! Please check the banner below!
Fukuoka prefecture is super lively prefecture among all other areas in Kyushu. People, here are very open and friendly. On top of it, the local food tastes incredible! Either you are looking for some exceptional cultural experience through attending festivals and visiting historic sites, or you enjoy chilling in nature, Fukuoka Prefecture has something to offer anyone who decides to visit it. The following article will introduce you to the most popular events and attractions of Fukuoka Prefecture. Please check the link below!
Winter is a great season to enjoy Japan! I hope you enjoyed reading this article and it made you visit this event. There are plenty of festivals and events in Japan in winter, as Japanese people traditionally have a lot of celebrations this season. Most of the events are held in the evening to enjoy candle lights which bring a cozy and charming atmosphere. For all snow lovers, the following article suggests you 10 best spots to enjoy snow in Japan!
Click here! URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/4442/
Japan is a country of festivals indeed. Matsuri is an essential part of traditional Japanese culture. Thus, every day somewhere in Japan a festival takes place. There are traditional and modern festivals, on the sea and on the ground, in summer and winter. Japanese are hardworking people. However, when you attend at least one festival in Japan, you will understand how locals like to party. The article under the link below will introduce you to a celebration on any day of the year. I am sure you will find an event that suits your interests utmost!
Image courtesy of Tomomarusan
For all foodies who enjoy Japanese Festivals would be nice to get acquainted with the rich choice offered by Yatai (Japanese festival food stalls). The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!
A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!