Apr 142013
Daigoji cherry blossom viewing

Over 400 years ago, a big and elaborate cherry blossom viewing party was held in Daigoji Temple by Toyotomi Hideyoshi – then the most powerful man in Japan. To commemorate the event, every year a festival with historical parade and art performances is organized in the same place.

Jan 102013
Toka Ebisu and Hoekago Parade in Osaka

Recipe: take some beauties and celebrities, promise good revenue this year, and you have crowds of people gathering from morning until the late night.

Such is Imamiya Toka Ebisu in Osaka—a festival of patron deity of merchants. Festival lasts few days around January 10th (“tooka” means actually “the tenth day”) and attracts huge crowds of people. They buy lucky charms for a new year and dispose last year’s charms for burning.

Dec 182012
On Matsuri in Nara

There are very few festivals held in Japan in December, if you count out the Christmas shopping decorations and city light-ups. One remarkable exception is On Matsuri in Nara.

Held every year for almost 900 years, the festival is a peculiar storehouse for old customs and traditions. It is one of a few places where you can see the old forms of art like dengaku or sarugaku – predecessor of noh theater.

Dec 142012
Ako Gishi Festival - commemorating 47 loyal retainers

The story of 47 ronin needs no introduction. Based on real incident in 1701, it is celebrated in every literary form. Spoken stories, books, manga, puppet theater, kabuki theater. Western audience is probably most familiar with movies by famous Japanese directors.

On December 14th, the city of Ako – former domain of Lord Asano – commemorates the vendetta in the form of a festival.

Nagoya Matsuri

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Oct 162012
Nagoya Matsuri

Nagoya is renowned for its automobile and mechanical industries. Nagoya Festival originating in the Edo period confirms that this is for a good reason.

Main characteristic of the festival floats used here are mechanical dolls that perform dance, acrobat shows, or play mythical stories.

Despite stark contrast between modernity of Nagoya streets and wooden carts pulled by people, it gives a sense of continuity.

Sep 252012
Dazaifu Tenjin Matsuri

Sugawara Michizane was a prominent poet and politician in 9-th century Japan. Due to intrigues by rival Fujiwara clan, he was demoted of his court rank by the Emperor and appointed a minor post in Dazaifu on Kyushu.

In October, in Dazaifu, a festival commemorating Sugawara takes place.

Aug 292012
Hot Samba Carnival in the heat of Tokyo's summer

A flock of penguin-dressed Japanese dancing Brazilian samba in front of a 1400 year old Buddhist temple.

Does that sound ridiculous? Believe it or not, this is August in Tokyo.

Brazil is bound to Japan with historical ties. It was the country that attracted majority of Japanese emigrants in the beginning of 20th century. And nowadays, descendants of those people constitute a large group of immigrants to Japan.

Next year, the Asakusa Samba Carnival will mark its 30th anniversary.