All About Japan

Japan's 11 Coolest Festivals

| Festivals , Temples & Shrines

7. Yosakoi Soran Festival (Hokkaido)

Originating in Kochi Prefecture before spreading throughout the country, there are many Yosakoi celebrations. However, no one does it quite like Sapporo City in Hokkaido. The local tradition began in 1992, and is held in early June each year, when the city is covered in verdant greenery. Locals participating in the festival dance to songs based on the Soran Bushi, a traditional Hokkaido folk song, accompanied by handheld clappers. Combined with vibrant outfits and massive flags, the lively dances, inspired by fishermen's movements hauling heavy nets and ropes, fill the streets of Sapporo with inimitable energy.

6. Niihama Taiko Festival (Ehime)

Held in October, this is one of the three largest festivals in Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands. Also known as the “Man’s Festival,” the Niihama Taiko Festival in Ehime Prefecture features teams of 150 local men lifting ornate 3-ton taiko drum stands in celebration of the autumn harvest. Each district of the city has its own unique taiko drum embroidered with specifically colored strings. You can even purchase embroidered art for your favorite districts!

5. Kanto Matsuri (Akita)

One of northeastern Japan’s Three Great Festivals, the Kanto Matsuri in Akita Prefecture is held in early August, and attracts over a million attendees annually. It's named after the signature kanto, large rods lifting up to 46 lanterns, said to be shaped like an ear of rice. Although they weigh around 50 kilograms (110 lbs), they’re balanced on the hands, heads, hips and shoulders of practiced locals.

4. Kashiwada Danjiri Festival (Osaka)

Named after massive wooden floats called danjiri, the Danjiri Festival is held in the city of Kashiwada in Osaka Prefecture in September. The festival features dozens of teams each drawing their own elaborately carved, 4-ton float, atop of which stand musicians and a dancer, called the daikugata (literally, "carpenter person"). The participants pull the floats at running speeds through narrow streets. The key point to watch is the crazy skidding turns around tight corners!