All Seasons

Tokyo Hidden Gems. 12 Must See Festivals of the Year.

Anton

Writer

Tokyo is a vibrant capital city which features busy lifestyle of its citizens and traditions that are kept for centuries. If you look at Tokyo from another angle you will figure out that this is a city of festivals. Each part of the city has a local community with its own traditions. And for Japanese people it is very important to keep the sense of their community, thus, you can see plenty of festivals almost every week in different parts of Tokyo.

In this article, I am going to introduce you to one festival each month that is worth seeing when you are in Tokyo or its surroundings. Some of them are quite popular and about others, you might hear for the first time. All of them show various aspects of Japanese culture and local communities. And all of them are gems which would be not very easy to find in guidebooks. So if you are curious about these events or making your Tokyo trip plans this article is for you!

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January. Fujiki Dososhin Festival

Image courtesy of やまなし観光推進機構

 

After New Year holidays pass you have a great opportunity to go to the mountains and see the snow, which is not so common in Tokyo. But what is more attractive is that you can watch a live Kabuki performance on the open air in winter. The actors wear traditional costumes of Edo period and perform on 3 big Japanese drums. This alternative way to get acquainted with Kabuki art is even more intriguing than going to the theater. Just don`t forget to bring some warm clothes, and hot drinks with festival food wait for you at the venue.Image courtesy of やまなし観光推進機構

 

Details and Access

Date: 14th January every Year. Usually starts at 7 pm.

Place: Hokoji Temple. 2438 Enzanfujiki, Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture 404-0054

Access: From Tokyo station, you need to get to Enzan Station by JR Chuo Line (Approximately 2 hours). From Enzan Station take a local bus or taxi to Hokoji Temple (Approximately 10 minutes).

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/4386/

February. Naritasan Shinshoji Temple Setsubun Festival

February is the coldest month in Japan and also it is a Setsubun season. According to Japanese Lunar calendar, Setsubun is the last day of winter on February 3rd. This is not an official holiday in Japan, but a very important day for the nation. For this reason, Setsubun is celebrated widely around the country. Traditionally people throw soybeans or peanuts to drive away evil spirits on this day. You will have a great opportunity to do this at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple along with thousands of people who will join this festival. It’s a great getaway destination for half a day. Besides, the Shinshoji Temple with its pagoda is just beautiful.

Details and Access

Date: On February 3rd every year there are 3 bean throwing ceremonies during the day.

Place: Narita-san Shinshō-Ji Temple. 1 Narita, Chiba Prefecture 286-0023

Access: From Tokyo station to Narita station by JR Sobu line (approximately 1 hour). It won`t take you more than 10 minutes to walk to Narita-san Shinshō-Ji Temple from the station.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/2881/

March. Cherry Blossoms Festivals around Tokyo

End of March is definitely a season for cherry blossoms. And it is going to be difficult to skip it at that period as the whole city of Tokyo drowns in the pink ocean of cherry flowers. There are numerous places and events for hanami (cherry blossoms viewing). It is pretty hard to suggest you only one of them because you can visit several at the same time. Anyway, the most important thing you should do during this short season is to meet your friends or family, choose a proper spot under the blooming tree you like, take some sake or beer with you (optional), and relax with this amazing view.

Details and Access

Date: From the end of March until the beginning of April. Usually for about a week depending on the weather.

Place: Everywhere in Tokyo and in Japan as well.

For more information about the best cherry blossom spots and festivals in Tokyo, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/1805/

April. Kanamara Festival

Kanamara Festival is just an outstanding Matsuri. It is pretty well-known as the Japanese Penis Festival or the Festival of the Steel Phallus. Even though this festival seems really strange it has a very long history and attracts a lot of people. The major attraction is a mikoshi with a huge black penis along with all other goods which they sell during this festival. This matsuri is a great opportunity to discover Tokyo from a different perspective. So, if you are ready for some craziness and eager to be surprised, don`t miss this exceptional event!

Details and Access

Date: Usually on the first Sunday of April.

Place: Kanayama Shrine. 2 Chome-13-16 Daishi Ekimae, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture 210-0802

Access: From Tokyo station, you need to get to Kawasaki station (there are many lines operating) (approximately 15 minutes). From Kawasaki station get to Kawasaki-Daishi Station by Keikyu Daishi line (approximately 5 minutes). Then it will take you only 3 minutes walk to get to the shrine.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/743/

May. Sanja Matsuri

Sanja Matsuri is one of the most famous festivals in Tokyo. Thus, if you would like to be in the center of a crowd at this traditional even come to Tokyo in May and enjoy the spring like a local! This festival lasts for three days and attracts over 1,5 million people every year. The highlights of the event are the mikoshi parades. You will see over 100 portable shrines there. Besides, there will be many locals with gorgeous Japanese tattoos. This is a great event to feel Japanese culture and energetic vibes. Besides, the food at this festival is amazing!

Details and Access

Date: Every year on weekend in the Middle of May (around 17th, starting from Friday) for 3 days.

Place: Asakusa shrine and surroundings. 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo 111-0032

Access: From Tokyo station take JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station, then transfer to the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line to get to Asakusa Station. After 5 – 10 minutes’ walk you will reach Asakusa Shrine.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/1248/

June. Sasagawa Sumo Festival

This festival was first held in 1842 and combines competition and traditional storytelling through sumo wrestling. What else could be more intriguing to watch than a sumo competition during a festival? his festival is a very popular community event, as in recent years any men over 16, including amateurs, have been allowed to participate and the winners can even receive prizes! This is a unique festival to see indeed. So, grab your camera, go to the festival and capture those priceless energetic moments!

Details and Access

Date: Last Saturday of June every year.

Place: Suwa Shrine. 1020 Sawarai, Katori 287-0003, Chiba Prefecture

Access: From Tokyo station you need to take JR Sobu line via Narita airport, then change to JR Narita line at Narita or Tsuga stations and get to Sasagawa station. It will take you 5 minutes walk to get to Suwa Shrine.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/1943/

July. Kibune Festival

Have you ever seen a “Ship Festival”? This is a rare chance to see an unusual festival which is one of three major Ship Festivals in Japan close to Tokyo. At this event 7 beautifully decorated ships show up and one of it carries mikoshi from Kibune Shrine. You will see a lot of people swimming in the ocean wearing their festival outfit. Besides, the final highlight of Kibune Festival is an outstanding firework display on the last day of the event. Don’t miss this great opportunity to see Japanese traditions and how they are connected with the sea if you are in Tokyo in July.

Details and Access

Date: July 27th and 28th

Place: Kibune Shrine and Manatsuru Port. 1117 Manatsuru, Manazuru, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa Prefecture 259-0201

Access: From Tokyo station take JR Tokaido line via Numazu and take off at Manazuru station (approximately 1 hour 40 min). Then it’s a 20 min walk to the shrine and the port.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/4412/

August. Fukagawa Hachiman Festival

Japanese summer is very hot and humid, especially in August. And at Fukagawa Hachiman Festival people know how to cool down. This is very popular classical Japanese Matsuri. Over half a million people visit it every year. It is one of the big three Shinto festivals of Tokyo, along with Kanda festival and Sanno festival. Here you will see a gorgeous mikoshi performance. However, the major feature of this festival is that visitors can throw water on the mikoshi bearers. This cools them down and brings a lot of joy to everyone! So, wear something light, prepare to be wet and enjoy this crazy traditional festival!

Details and Access

Date: The dates vary from year to year. Usually, the festival takes place on the last week of August.

Place: Tomioka Hachiman Shrine and Eitai street. 1 Chome-20-3 Tomioka, Koto, Tokyo 135-0047

Access: From Tokyo station take Marunouchi subway like via Ikebukuro, change to Tozai line at Otemachi station via Nishi Funabashi and get off at Monzen-Nakacho station (approximately 10-12 min). It is only 5 minutes by walk to the shrine.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/780/

September. Juniso Kumano Shrine Festival

Juniso Kumano Shrine Autumn Festival gives you a great chance to see how old Japanese traditions look with a background of a modern busy city! Beautiful mikoshi procession goes through modern and tall buildings of Shinjuku and Kabukicho particularly. This is a great example of a local matsuri. However, its central location makes this festival quite busy. The food stalls and various activities will be near Kumano shrine until late evening. It’s a great event right in the heart of Tokyo to visit when you do not have a whole day to spend at one place but still want to absorb few Japanese traditions.

Details and Access

Date: The dates vary year to year, but usually it is around the middle of September.

Place: Shinjuku Juniso Kumano Shrine. 2 Chome-11-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023

Access: From Tokyo station easiest will be taking JR Chuo line and get off at Shinjuku station (approximately 15 minutes). Then a 10 minutes’ walk will lead you to the shrine.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/737/

October. Nanso Satomi Festival

Maybe you came across Nansō Satomi Hakkenden – a Japanese epic novel by Kyokutei Bakin. This unique festival is a recreation of this great novel. You will see parades, samurai battles, small plays on the motif of the novel. If you would like to dive into the turmoil of the Edo period this festival is for you! Besides, there is a great fireworks display at the end of the event. The show is fascinating, however, the venue is not easy to reach from Tokyo. It can be a day trip, but I`d suggest you stay overnight around Tateyama as it is on the edge of Bōsō Peninsula. Nevertheless, this festival gives you a great opportunity to get away from a big city and feel yourself in old Japan with feudal wars and geishas!

Details and Access

Date: 3rd Sunday of October every year.

Place: Around Tateyama station.

Access: From Tokyo station, you first need to get to Chiba station then change to JR Uchibo line via Tateyama and get off at Tateyama station (approximately 2-2,15 hours). Alternatively, there are also express buses that run from Tokyo station or From Chiba station to Tateyama. It takes the same time.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/2427/

November. Haniwa Festival

This festival perfectly represents the culture of ancient Japan. Haniwa is a clay figure made in 6th or 7th centuries. A lot of them were found in this area. This triggered local people to hold a festival in 1982, and since then this event is becoming more and more popular. You will see unusual costumes and makeup on the people, representing ancient times. Unusual even for Japan. There will also be various dances, competitions, and of course a lot of food stalls. This is a great event to take pictures. There is even a photo contest you can take part in. If you would like to know more about the ancient side of Japan this matsuri is for you!

Details and Access

Date: Usually on the second Sunday of November.

Place: Shibayama Park. 〒289-1692 Chiba prefecture Sanbugun Shibayama town Shibayama park

Access: From Tokyo station you need to arrive at Narita station by JR Sobu line or by limited express, then change to Keisei Higashi-Narita line and get off at Shibayama Chiyoda station (approximately 1,5 hour in total). Then a free shuttle bus will take you to the park.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/1411/

December. Zingara Festival

Here is one more extraordinary festival to feel how authentic Japan is. Japan boasts a lot of naked festivals and this is one of them. I assume that visiting this festival is another unusual way to explore this marvelous country. Zingara is a religious ritual and a local custom to wish for and predict the next year`s harvest which is designated as an intangible cultural treasure by Nagareyama city. A group of almost naked Japanese men is scrambling, in order to split a large piece of rice cake (mochi). And even a larger group of viewers (dressed in warm coats) is surrounding them. An outstanding show indeed.

Details and Access

Date: 2nd Sunday of January every year.

Place: Moro shrine. Miwanoyama 5-619, Nagareyama city, Chiba Prefecture

Access: From Tokyo station get to Akihabara station (you can use different lines) and get to Tsukuba express via Tsukuba, then get off at Minami-Nagareyama Station (approximately 1 hour in total). The shrine is 1 minute away from the station.

For more information about this festival, please click on the link below:

URL:  https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/2982/

Closing Remarks

Obviously, there are more amazing festivals in Tokyo and surrounding areas. I hope that this article will help you to choose a festival and look at Japan and Tokyo from a different perspective. You will definitely have an unforgettable experience visiting at least one of these events. If you would like a local guide to accompany you during the festival or suggest you a nice matsuri when you come to Japan it is easy to arrange with Huber. Please click on the banner below!

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel themselves a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or just 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 definitely try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5363/

Don`t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

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!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5504/

What is Mikoshi?

If you were ever wondering about Japanese festivals, you probably came across Mikoshi. Mikoshi is an important part of any Japanese religious matsuri, and it is hard to even imagine a traditional festival scene without it. If you would like to know more about Japanese traditional festival culture and find out what Mikoshi really is, the next article is for you. Please click on the link to check it out!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5678/

Anton

I`ve been living in Japan for over 10 years and still fascinated with this unique country. I always discover something new about the land of the rising sun when there is a chance!

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