Japan: Holidays & Festivals                                           

Holidays

Osho Gatsu – New Years’ Holiday                                             Dec 23 – Jan 5

Seijin-no-Hi – Adults’ Day                                                       January 15

Kenkoku kinen-bi – National Foundation Day                           February 11

Shunbun-no-Hi – Spring Equinox                                            March 21

Goldenweek 

  • Green Day                                                                            April 29

  • Kempo kinen-bi – Constitution Memorial Day                           May 3

  • Kodomo-no-Hi – Children’s Day                                              May 5

0-Bon Festival – Buddhist All Souls Day                                  Mid-August

Keiro-no-Hi – Respect for the Aged Day                                  September 15

Shunbun-no-Hi – Autumnal Equinox                                       September 24

Aiiku-no-Hi – Health/Sports Day                                             October 10

Bunka-no-Hi – Culture Day                                                    November 3

Kinro Kansha-no-Hi – Labor Thanksgiving Day                        November 23

Tenno Tanjobi – Birthday of Emperor Akihito                           December 23

  

Festivals

Winter

  • Dezomeshiki, held in Tokyo on January 6, is the New Year’s Parade of Firemen—where men perform dazzling-acrobatic tricks with bamboo ladders.
  • Snow Festival of Sapporo in Hokkaidois is held on February 5– 11. This world famous festival centers around a competition of massive snow sculptures.

Spring

  • Hinamatsuri is a doll festival and a special day for girls which is held on March 3. Young girls dress in their best kimonos and set-up home displays of hina dolls and their accessories which have been handed down from family members for hundreds of years. There is an emperor and an empress doll and other dolls that look like noble ladies. Girls visit one another’s homes to admire the doll collections. Rice cakes and tea are offered to guests. Even the dolls get tiny cakes on tiny dishes!
  • Hana Matsuri is the celebration of Buddha’s birthday held on April 8.
  • May 5 is Children’s Day. Formerly, it was called Boys’ Day. The two symbols for this festival are the carp and the iris. Both stand for strength and courage and remind children to face life’s challenges with determination. The carp is strong because, in order to lay its eggs, it must swim upriver against the current. The leaves of the iris are as sharp as the swords used by courageous samurai warriors of the past. Boys proudly display samurai armor, swords and warrior dolls and visit one another to view the displays. Carp made of paper or cloth are hung on bamboo poles outside every home. Each member of the family is represented by one carp.
  • Mif’une Matsuri, on the third Sunday in May, is a parade on the Oi River in Kyoto that features a display of ancient boats.

Summer

  • Gion Matsuri of Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto is a famous festival in Japan. The event peaks on July 17, with a huge parade of floats.
  • Kanto Matsuri or the “Pole of Lanterns Festival” is held in Akita city each year from August 5-7. Individuals carry 10-meter long poles holding 40 to 50 light paper lanterns in a festive procession.

Autumn

  • Autumn Festival of Toshogu Shrine, Nikko takes place on October 17. The festival features troops of Samurai warriors in full costume.
  • Shi-Chi-Go-San is a festival for children ages 3, 5, & 7 years of age. Children dress up in kimonos, receive treats and get their pictures taken.
  • Momiji Festival, in November, is held in Arashiyama and Kyoto. It is held around the time that the maple leaves are changing color.