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Hina-Matsuri Festival (Doll Festival)

Hina Matsuri Festival 2017

On March 3rd every year in Japan is the date of a seasonal festival, called Hina-Matsuri and also known as the Peach festival since peach trees are usually in full bloom around this time. Hina-Matsuri is a celebration to pray for the happiness and healthy growth of daughters. A traditional custom for those who have young girls is associated with Hina dolls representing the Emperor and Empress. Altars for the Hina dolls show a variety of decorations with boughs of peach blossoms and offerings of diamond shaped, colored rice cakes. At the celebration table, dishes like Chirashizushi (rice with piece of raw fish, strips of egg, vegetables arranged on top), clam soup, sweet rice crackers and sweet white sake are prepared.

If you are in Japan around this time, get into the traditional celebration mood. Here are some recommendations you can explore.


Hina-no Tsurushi Matsuri Festival (Izu Inatori Hot Springs, Shizuoka Prefecture) (January 20 till March 31, 2017)

Hina Matsuri Festival 2017

Izu Inatori hot spring town is located on the eastern side of the Izu Peninsula; 2.5 hours from Tokyo by resort style express train. Hina-no Tsurushi Matsuri is one of three largest hanging decoration festivals in Japan. Hanging decorations are a custom in the Inatori area going back to the Edo period. During Edo time, Hina dolls on the special alter were prosperous and those who could not afford them sewed hanging ornaments from cloth to wish for the happiness of their daughters.

Bunka Park, 20 minutes by foot from Inatori station, holds the festival that exhibits over 11,000 ornaments. As Inatori is a hot spring town, stretch your legs and relax in the footbaths on site. As the sun retires and dusk falls, nightly transformations depict a romantic atmosphere known as Princess Road. Another main venue of the festival, Mukai-An located within a 10 minute walk from the station is decorated with about 7,700 ornaments. During the festival period, the entire town welcomes all visitors to celebrate the dolls festival. Take an excursion from Tokyo to enjoy a unique experience.

For more information about Shizuoka, please visit here.


Yanagawa Hina-Matsuri Sagemon Meguri (Fukuoka prefecture) (February 11 till April 3, 2017)

Hina Matsuri Festival 2017

Yanagawa is a castle town with a unique landscape that depicts a water district where canals snake through the town in all directions. Yanagawa is located 60 minutes from the Fukuoka Airport and 30 minutes from Saga airport on Kyushu Island. During the festival period, a number of locations are exhibiting Hina dolls and Sagemon decorations. Sagemon are the hanging ornaments including decorative balls and charms made with small cloth, tied together.

The highlight of the festival is a boat parade on March 19. A Shinto priest is on the first boat to purify the journey. The procession follows with boats and a couple dressed as Emperor and Empress, court women and a number of children. On the last day of the festival, the Nagashi bina festival is on a river near the Yanagawa Bridge. Children place their dreams and wishes on paper Hina dolls and let them flow out on the river.

This is one of the top Doll festivals in Kyushu Island and a perfect way to experience traditional culture with local people.

For more information, please visit here.

Japan in Bloom. Cherry Blossom Festival

Spring is Japan's most dazzling season, when thousands of Sakura, cherry blossom trees explode with marvelous wonder. Once spring arrives, people enjoy the season in different ways. Many people enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms or partaking in blossom festivals while some celebrate the season by indulging in sweets shaped like cherry blossoms and tasting Sakura flavored Tea.

There are countless locations for viewing cherry blossoms throughout Japan. Cherry blossom festivals most usually coincide with an array of food and traditional events. Attending a festival at this time is a great opportunity to experience the blooming, traditional performances and local specialties all at once.

If you are lucky to be in Japan during the season, here are some of popular Cherry blossom festivals you cannot miss.

Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival (Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture)(End-April till early May)

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Hirosaki city is in the southwest section of Aomori prefecture located one hour from Aomori airport by bus. Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival draws visitors from across the country and the world every year. Hirosaki Park is home to the ruins of 17th century Hirosaki castle and one of the most spectacular cherry blossom sites in Japan. Wander through about 2,600 blooming cherry trees of over 50 different varieties. Rent a boat to appreciate the blossom reflecting on the water. Sample local specialties from hundreds of vendors and stay late to experience the spectacular nighttime illumination of the trees as they cast a pink and white glow across the park. There are also exclusive lunch meal services with picnic rugs available with advanced booking. Enjoy a lavish assorted meal box consisting of local ingredients while the local groups perform traditional entertainment right beside you.

For more information, please visit here.


Kitakami Tenshochi Sakura Festival (Kitakami city, Iwate Prefecture) (Mid-April till early May)

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Kitakami is located in the Iwate prefecture, located 2.5 hours by bullet train from Tokyo is famous for its 10,000 plus cherry trees. The Kitakami Tenshochi Sakura Festival, with over 90 years of history, may well be one of the most romantic of all of the cherry blossom festivities. Celebrating the beauty with a river cruise or winding waterside strolls. The Cherry trees planted alongside the Kitakami River in the park offer breathtaking sceneries. In particular, take a horse drawn carriage through a tunnel of white cherry blossoms along the park's walkway, or enjoy a panoramic view of the blossoms from a boat along the Kitakami River. From early April to May 5th (Children's day in Japan), you can witness hundreds of colorful carp-shaped cloth flags displayed across the river. When the wind passes through them, the carp appear to be swimming upstream, a symbol of strength and perseverance.

For more information, please visit here.


Fuji Shiba-Sakura Festival (Yamanashi Prefecture) (Mid-April till end-May)

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Lake Motosuko Resort Park is approximately 2 hours from central Tokyo. The scenery is majestic as Mt. Fuji exhibits its peak crowned with remaining snow as a backdrop. Over 800,000 stalls of spectacular Shiba Sakura or moss phlox are on display at the festival. This annual festival is unsurpassed in offering both grand splendid sceneries as well as selected local gourmet foods. During the Sakura festival, the Mt. Fuji delicious food festival is a great attraction in the park. Sample various fine meals like noodles and sweets from the Mt. Fuji region at the cafés, various restaurants and food stalls. There are some look out points within the park and a unique footbath look out point is available where you can appreciate the superb charm of the magical "pink carpet" while relaxing your feet. Admire Japan's symbolic icons, Mt. Fuji together with a “pink carpet” of Shiba Sakura in bloom this coming spring. No doubt the visit will give you unforgettable memories.

For more information, please visit here.


cherry2017

Even if you cannot visit these festivals, simply enjoy Hanami or blossom viewing. Today, friends, family and colleagues gather for a picnic under blossoming cherry trees day or night, sipping sake and indulging in a special box lunch called "Hanami Bento". Participating in a Hanami party is easy. Like going out to a picnic, simply grab one of the tempting bento boxes (boxed lunch) available at any supermarket or convenience store and head to one of the many viewing spots at a shrine, mountains or gardens for a Japanese cultural experience that’s one of kind.

Let's Visit Japan's Winter Wonderland, Snow Festivals

Japan enjoys a heavy snowfall every winter because of its mountainous landscape. During the winter season, you can enjoy many snow festivals with ample support and effort from the local community. Dress warmly and step out to a winter wonderland theme park. No doubt, you will have a heartwarming moment whilst enjoying the spectacular scenery.

Here are some recommendations where winter adds attraction.

Sapporo Snow Festival (Early February, Sapporo, Hokkaido)

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Held annually in Sapporo is Japan's biggest snow festival attracting over two million people from the entire world. The festival is in the heart of Sapporo city and close to the New Chitose Airport. The main place to visit is Odori Park, displaying a magical snow museum with rows of giant and small snow sculptures. Tsudome site exhibits a fantastic snow attraction park with a long slide. Susukino site is an Ice world where a number of impressive ice sculptures are on display. Exclusive food stalls of local Hokkaido gourmet are a must to enjoy delicious charcoal BBQ crab, sea urchin rice, ramen noodles and many more local foods to indulge your senses. Step into the white snow world under the day light and the majestic atmosphere with illumination after sunset. Chill out and enjoy hot drinks at the ice bar!

For more information, please visit here.


Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival (Mid-February, Yokote City, Akita)

Snow fes

Yokote city, Akita in Japan is a heavy snowfall region and is located about three and a half hours from Tokyo by train or about one hour by a shuttle bus from Akita airport. The festival in Akita has more than a 400 year old history featuring over a hundred "Kamakura" and countless illuminated miniature "Kamakura" creating a breathtaking atmosphere. "Kamakura" refers to small huts made by carving out a mound of compacted snow. (Think "Japanese igloo") During the festival, an altar for the Shinto water deity is set inside the Kamakura and in the evening local children sit inside inviting festival visitors to join in. Children serve visitors toasted rice cake and a warm sweet fermented rice drinks. Lit by candles numerous rows of miniature Kamakura glow illuminating the local Primary school along the Yokote River. The view from the Yokote castle lookout displays a magical panorama. Furthermore, many food stalls provide delicious local food like Yokote fried noodles. This is a perfect place to explore local community and folk tradition.

For more information, please visit here.


Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival (Mid-February, Hirosaki city, Aomori)

snow fes Located three hours from Tokyo by train or within one hour by bus from Aomori airport is the castle town of Hirosaki. Featured is Hirosaki Park, which gets crowded in February with locals and visitors admiring the snow lantern festival. Massive snow structures are on display relating to the historical architecture and as darkness falls, the castle tower and old pine trees are lit up with hundreds of snow lanterns creating a brilliant atmosphere. Walk into the Hasu Pond area and admire hundreds of small Kamakura providing a romantic atmosphere. Sit back, and enjoy the projection mapping that offers stunning illusion while the fireworks simultaneously illuminate the clear winter sky. Soak up and enjoy the fantasy created by the lighting and snowflakes.

For more information, please visit here.




Tadami Furusato (Hometown) Snow Festival (Mid-February, Tadami-cho, Fukushima)

snow fes


Located at the western edge of the Fukushima prefecture and located four hours from Tokyo by train is Tadami, registered as a UNESCO ecological park. Most of the region is a mountainous zone surrounded by abundant nature with heavy snowfall every winter. During the festival, numerous illuminated snow sculptures attract crowds. Carried around in the snowy town are heavy portable shrines, a traditional ritual in Tadami. In the food stalls, try out casual foods like noodles and chicken skewers. Look up into the night sky above Tadami to observe a spectacular firework display. Enjoy the authentic experience of snowfall and lighting displays surrounded by nature.

For more information, please visit here.


Winter Traditions in Japan

In Japan there are many traditional winter events you should not miss. The old days were known for their harsh winters. Early nightfall and deep snow forced people to pray and develop numerous winter traditions. Religious rituals and traditional folk performances form part of a cultural experience awaiting to be discovered in Japan throughout winter.

See below for an introduction to some of Japan's famous traditional events in winter.

Hachinohe Enburi Festival (Mid-February, Aomori)

Winter Traditions

Kicking off in the center of Hachinohe city, the Enburi festival displays marvelous traditional folk dance performances orchestrated to pray for a rich harvest. The city is located within three hours of Tokyo by train. Enburi, a folk dance passed over from generation to generation was born from prayers wishing for a bountiful harvest and the arrival of spring during a severe winter. Over 30 dance groups combining local dancers called Tayu perform together with singers, drummers and flute players. Tayu wear beautiful large hats that express a horse's head, essential for farmers in the old days. Dancers express the scenes of farm work like rice planting and scraping the frozen earth. During the festival, each performance creates a different atmosphere in different locations. For example, In the city center, all dance groups gather to form a procession through the town. At night in the public square, dancing while making a bonfire is exhibited and other remarkable dancing demonstrations can be viewed in the narrow streets at the food stall village.

For more information, please visit here.


Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri Festival (Mid-February, Okayama)

Winter Traditions

Hadaka Matsuri (naked man's festival) is considered one of the three major "strange" festivals in Japan and has origins that date back 500 years. From the morning of the festival, visitors and participants start to gather at the Saidaiji Temple and as the night begins to fall, loud drums are beat by local women to pray for a safe festival. When all lights are off the atmosphere of the temple is alive and a priest tosses a pair of sacred wooden sticks out of a holy window. At this time, about 9,000 nearly naked men fight to grab the wooden sticks. A blessing of good fortune awaits the men that succeed. Any man can purchase the attire to join in, practically a loincloth. The winner is victorious and deemed the lucky man of the festival!

For more information, please visit here.


Namahage Sedo Festival (Mid-February, Akita)

Winter Traditions

In the western part of Akita and Located in the Oga Peninsula is the home of the famous Namahage legend. A local train and temporary shuttle bus takes approximately two hours and operates from Akita station to the festival venue during the festival period. Namahage is the name of strange deity resembling a demon dressed in traditional attire with large masks, straw raincoats and holding wooden knives. The festival at Shinzan Shrine is a combination of Shinto ritual and Namahage folk tradition. The festival begins with a sacred Shinto blessing and purification ceremony by stirring boiling water believed to calm down the rough sea. Witness unforgettable experiences particularly watching the energetic and soulful performances like Namahage Daiko (Drumming) and Namahage dances. Namahage's torchlight processions show up from the dark snowy mountain at the end of the festival, and stroll around the audience to bless them. Handed to the audience at the end of festival is Goma-mochi, a roasted rice cake cooked on the bonfire. This is a traditional belief to keep away evil.

For more information, please visit here.


Unique New Year's Tradition in Japan

Many traditions and customs come alive in Japan as the calendar year transitions from old to new. This is one of the most important seasons throughout the year for Japanese. The center of the New Year ceremony is Toshigami (deity), who will stay with each family during the New Year celebration and bless the family throughout the year. Most of the practices are for welcoming Toshigami. Join the New Year celebration with much grandeur and enjoy the unique experience.


New Year

Traditional Preparation for Welcoming the New Year Deity:

New Year

December in Japan can be hectic, particularly with the tradition of major house cleaning to purge old residue from the home and prepare to welcome Toshigami. Japanese do not clean on New Years' day, as the belief is that cleaning on New Years can sweep out good luck. Quite often the house is decorated with traditional ornaments like "Kagami-mochi" (a set of two round rice cakes) at the alcove of the main room and "Shimenawa" (braided straw ropes) at the house entrance to welcome Toshigami. Japanese consider December 31st a very important day and spend quality time together with family. A very common custom is eating "Toshikoshi-soba" (yearend buckwheat noodles). The skinny, long noodles they are eating reflect a wish for a long life. Many people eat the noodles before the clock strikes midnight as eating the soba past midnight gives rise to the belief that it can bring bad luck to the New Year. Before the clocks strike midnight, you can hear the sound of the ringing bells coming from the temples. This is termed "Joya-no-Kane." The bell rings 108 times, as the old year fades out and the New Year arrives. Buddhism teaching says that the 108 chimes represent human desires and each strike of the bell ensures a desire is castaway with each chiming sound.

Welcome The New Year with Traditional Customs for Wellbeing:

New Year

One of the most popular custom on New Year's Day is welcoming the first sunrise of the year, Hatsuhinode. People gather before dawn at open places like beaches and mountains to prepare for the moment. There is a belief that Toshigami appears with the first sunrise, having supernatural powers so people pray for happiness and good health as the sun rises. Huge crowds gather in shrines and temples on New Year's Day. Hatsumoude is a first visit to shrines or temples to make wishes for the coming year. Most people visit during the first 3 days of January. Shrines and temples come alive with stalls lined up in front of the gate. Many people purchase Omamori(amulet) to wish for wellbeing and draw Omikuji (lottery to draw a paper slip for fortune) for the year.

The traditional New Years' decoration, Kagami-mochi, is a set of two round rice cakes with Japanese orange on top. It symbolizes an offering to Toshigami and is believed that Toshigami stays inside of the rice cakes during the New Years' celebration. The consuming of the prepared rice cakes occur on January 11th, a tradition known as "Kagami-biraki." This typically depicts the end period of the celebration and a farewell to Toshigami. Eating Kagami-mochi apparently brings good health due to the belief it has a special power.

There are many other unique customs associated with New Years. Start 2017 with distinctive traditional experiences.




Events in the US: Save the Date!

The New York Times Travel Show

Japan Fair

From January 27 (Fri) - 29 (Sun), 2017, the New York Times Travel Show will be held at the Jacob K. Javits Center in NYC. It's the perfect place to gain information for your next travel experience. Join seminars, talk with experts, enjoy live performances, food tastings and cultural presentations from around the globe.

Come and drop by our JNTO booth (booth #169) and say hi!
We'll answer your questions and help you get the latest travel and event information.

For more information, please visit here.



Information is provided as a courtesy to users of this website. Though the JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgement and at their own risk. Neither the JNTO nor any holder of copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.

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