Japanese Culture: Japanese Festivals

Matsuri (祭) is the Japanese word for “festival” or “holiday”.  In Japan, it is often said that you will always find a festival going on somewhere.  Most Japanese festivals are derived from Chinese festivals.  However, some are so different from the Chinese festivals, you can hardly tell where they came from.  Festivals are usually sponsored by a local Shrine or Temple, though they can be held by other people, as well.  There are no specific days for festivals and holidays for all of Japan, as they vary throughout each region.  Japanese people do not celebrate the Chinese New Year, but instead celebrate the Western New Year, although Chinese residents in Japan still celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Japanese festivals take place throughout the year, ranging from shrine or temple-sponsored Buddhist festivals to more secular festivals that honor cherry blossoms or children.

Tōdai-ji Temple (東大寺) - Nara, Japan

The Sapporo Snow Festival (さっぽろ雪まつり) is a famous festival in Japan.  It is one of the largest festivals and is held in Sapporo (札幌市).  It occurs in the month of February for one week.  During this festival, around a dozen huge ice sculptures are made along with hundreds of other, smaller sculptures.  There are also some concerts held during this event.  Omizutori (or Shuni-e修二会) is a series of events held annually from March 1-14 at Tōdai-ji Temple (東大寺).   It is a Buddhist repentance ritual and has been held every year for over 1250 years.   It is one of the oldest Buddhist events in Japan.  Otaimatsu is the most famous and spectacular event that goes on during Omizutori.  There are many festivals and holidays that go on in Japan throughout the year.  Many involve traditional clothing, traditional food, fireworks, and floats.  These great festivals and holidays continue to be celebrated today.

Vlogger Ken Tanaka has made a great introductory video to what goes on at Matsuri on his YouTube channel.

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Taylor P.
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