Festivals and Seasonal Celebrations

Japanese culture is rich with festivals and seasonal celebrations. Japanese festivals can be divided into two kinds: nation-wide celebrations, and riotous local festivals which range from the ridiculous to the sublime. Into Japan is always happy to include festivals in your tailor made tour.

New Year is a family time with traditional food, decorations and visits to the shrine to pray for good fortune in the coming year. People all over the country visit temples at midnight to ring in the New Year on the huge temple bells, often followed by an early trip to a Shinto shrine to ensure a lucky year.

In spring, the cherry blossom front moves up the country and fills parks with soft pink petals. People celebrate with food, drink, and sometimes karaoke under the picturesque trees.

Visitors to Kyoto in May can enjoy the famous Aoi festival, which features a long procession of revelers, wearing stunning period costume, making their way through the streets along the Kamo River. The Aoi festival is named after the aoi, or hollyhocks, which are used to decorate the festival floats.

Summer evenings bring Bon-odori, as neighborhoods are bejewelled with paper lanterns and traditional melodies fill the air. In August visitors to Tokushima on the island of Shikoku have the chance to see the famous Awa-odori dancing which draws yukata-clad crowds. Many towns host summer fireworks displays, letting off some of the best pyrotechnics in the world into the July and August evenings.

The highlight of Fall is the celebration of the Japanese maple colors, with leaves turning from delicate yellow to vibrant red. Equally spectacular are the fire festivals in which mountainsides are set alight and huge bundles of fire are carried around temples in many regions.

October brings Kyoto’s Jidai festival parade, and November, the national Shichi-go-san festival in which children aged three, five and seven dress in bright kimono and visit local temples in an ancient and picturesque tradition.

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