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When you travel, you want to make sure you don't miss out exciting major events that are held only once a year, right? Or maybe you want to arrange your trip around a season that has a bunch of big festivals going on. This section's a place to introduce major events that are going to be held one-two months ahead, and it covers the entire country. More and more information will be added all year long, so whether you're thinking or not of traveling to the country of festivals keep your eyes fixed on this page and see what kinds of things are going on in Japan!
< May >
Apr 28 – Oct 31, 2007 | Lake Toya Long-Run Fireworks
Toyako Town / Hokkaido Prefecture
(Japanese Name: Toyako Long-Run Hanabi Taikai)
Short but astonishing fireworks displays will be shown every night during the event term in the skies above one of the largest lakes of the northern island. The displays are consisted of mainly two kinds – the uchiage hanabi (the regular type which are shot high up in the air), and the suichu hanabi, the (under)water fireworks that show beautiful fan-shaped art of sparkles on the surface of the lake. The cannons for the fireworks are of mobile type, thus the fireworks are fired from several locations of the lake allowing viewers to enjoy from any spot of the hot spring town.
[Dates] April 28th (Sat) – October 31st (Wed)
[Time] 20:45-21:05
[Place] Toyako lakeshore
Toyako Town, Abuta County, Hokkaido Prefecture
[Access from Tokyo]
  From Haneda Airport take plane to Shinchitose Airport (Hokkaido) and take JR express to JR Toya Station via JR Minami Chitose Station. From Toya Station take bus for 20min to Toyako Onsen Terminal. 1-min-walk.
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 0142-75-2446 (Toyako Onsen Tourist Association)
[URL] http://www.laketoya.com/top.html
(Toyako Onsen Tourist Association Official Website, Japanese & English)
(Lake Toya Sightseeing Information, Japanese, videos)
>> Hokkaido Prefectural Guide
Apr 29 & May2-3, 2007 | Meiji Shrine Spring Grand Festival
Shibuya Ward / Tokyo Prefecture
(Japanese Name: Meiji Jingu Haru no Taisai, Houshuku Gyouji)
A variety of classic music and dance will be performed on the special stage set in front of the main shrine hall for the Spring Grand Festival. The elegant and dignified stages of bugaku, noh and kyogen, sankyoku, hougaku, houbu and biwa (brief explanations provided below) welcome all who wish to appreciate the beauty and profoundness of Japanese traditional culture.
[Dates] April 21st (Sat) – April 29th (Sun&Hol)
4/29 11:00   Bugaku (traditional court music and dance)
5/2 11:30   Noh and Kyogen (traditional play)
  13:30   Sankyoku
(music ensemble of koto, sangen, and shakuhachi)
5/3 9:00   Kyudo Match (Japanese archery) @ Shiseikan 2nd hall
  11:45   Hougaku & Houbu (classical Japanese music and dance)
  14:30   Satsuma Biwa (Japanese lute and story telling)
[Place] Special stage set on Meiji Jingu shrine grounds (indoors in case of rain)
1-1 Yoyogi Kamizonocho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
[Access] 5-min-walk from JR Harajuku Station: JR Yamanote Line
5-min-walk from Meiji Jingu-mae Station: Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 03-3379-5511 (Meiji Shrine)
[URL] http://www.meijijingu.or.jp/
(Meiji Shrine Official Website Top, Japanese and English)
May 3-5, 2007 | Bishamon Festival All Japan Crying Sumo Tournament
Hanamaki City / Iwate Prefecture
(Japanese Name: Bishamon Matsuri Zenkoku Naki-zumo Taikai)
Hidaka Hibuse Festival
Photo Courtesy of Hanamaki City
”Naki-zumo” is a crying match between 1-full-year-old babies fought on a sumo ring. Two babies are held in the arms of the oyakata ((stable) master) who keeps calling to the opponent baby, and the baby who cries out first loses the match. The custom started about 300 years ago as a shrine ritual for the grand festival held on September 19th, but has shifted to a national event since 20 years ago taking place in early May. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the national competition, approximately 800 “mame-rikishi” crying baby wrestlers from all over Japan join the matches.
[Dates] May 3rd (Thu) – May 5th (Sat)
[Time] 10:00 / 11:35 / 13:40 / 15:15
[Place] Narushima Mikumano Shrine
5-1 Towacho Kitanarushima, Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture
[Access from Tokyo]
  From JR Tokyo Station take JR shinkansen (bullet train) to JR Shinhanamaki Station and transfer to JR Kamaishi Line. Get off at JR Tsuchizawa Station. 5-min-drive/taxiride.
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 0198-42-2110 (Bishamon Festival Executive Committee)
0198-42-3921 (Narushima Mikumano Shrine)
[URL] http://www.city.hanamaki.iwate.jp/kankou/
(Hanamaki City Official Website, Naki-zumo Information, Japanese)
>> Iwate Prefectural Guide
May 3-4, 2007 | 46th Hakata Dontaku Port Festival
Fukuoka City / Fukuoka Prefecture
(Japanese Name: 46th Hakata Dontaku Minato Matsuri)
Hakata Dontaku Port Festival
Photos Courtesy of Fukuoka Chamber of Commerce & Industry
One of southern Japan’s largest late spring festivals Hakata Dontaku is a very cheerful and rhythmical city festival with an audience of over 2 million people and more than 30,000 dancers.
From young to old, the dancers of this 820-year-old festival freely dance in the parade with their favorite unique costumes and shamoji (rice scoops) in their hands. The highlight of the festival may be the 1.3-km-parade, however, the other features such as the flower car decorated to the last inch with flowers and 3,000 light bulbs, and the stage shows performed at 31 stages around the city are also as eye-catching and too good to miss.
[Dates] May 3rd (Thu) – May 4th (Fri)
[Time] 5/3 approx. 12:00-19:00
5/4 approx. 14:00-20:00
[Place] 33 venues across Fukuoka City, all of them easily accessible by subway from JR Hakata Station.
[Access from Tokyo]
  From JR Tokyo Station take JR shinkansen (bullet train) to JR Hakata Station.
[Inquiry] TEL: 092-441-1170
FAX: 092-441-8557
E-mail: fksangyo@fukunet.or.jp
(Fukuoka Citizen’s Festival Promotion Association)
(Hakata Dontaku Official Website, Japanese)
(Hakata Dontaku Official Website, English)
>> Fukuoka Prefectural Guide
  Dontaku-tai Parade
Flower Car
May 3-5, 2007 | Hamamatsu Festival
Hamamatsu City / Shizuoka Prefecture
(Japanese Name: Hamamatsu Matsuri)
Hamamatsu Festival Kite Battle
Photos Courtesy of Hamamatsu Tourism & Convention Div.
With the heavy boom of the fireworks signing the opening of the event the mammoth kites take flight towards the vast May sky. The first to be flown is the “hatsudako” (the first kite) which is a kite made for the first son of the family and is flown to celebrate his birth. The “owner” of the kite and the boy of the day is dressed up in formal costume and is held in his fathers arms, watching his gigantic kite fly high into the sky. Following the hatsudako several battle kites fill the open sky at once with the loud signal of the trumpets and the battle begins.
The biggest feature above all is undoubtedly the kite-battle. The objective of the kite battle is to beat down the opponents’ kites by tangling the 5-mm-thick kite strings and cutting them with friction. When the strings are rubbed against each other and burn they let out white smoke and burning smell. With the smoke, the smell and the men boasting their kite flying skills, excitement invites larger excitement roars after roars erupt from the audience.
The Kite Battle Festival Floats at Night
[Dates] May 3rd (Thu) – May 5th (Sat)
[Time] approx. 11:00-21:00
[Place] JR Hamamatsu Station Area
Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture
[Access from Tokyo]
  From JR Tokyo Station take either JR shinkansen (bullet train) or JR Tokaido Honsen (local) to JR Hamamatsu Station. From JR Hamamatsu Station take shuttle bus to the Kite Battle site (fare: adults-Y250, children-Y130).
[Admission] Free (special viewing seats reserved for a fee)
[Inquiry] E-mail: info@hamamatsu-daisuki.net
[URL] http://hamamatsu-daisuki.net/matsuri/index.html
(Hamamatsu Matsuri Official Website, Japanese, photos & videos)
(Hamamatsu City Tourist Information, JPN / ENG / CHN / KOR)
>> Shizuoka Prefectural Guide
May 10-15, 2007 | Kanda Festival
Chiyoda-ku / Tokyo Prefecture
(Japanese Name: Kanda Matsuri)
Kanda Matsuri is otherwise known as the “Edo no Hana Tenka Matsuri” (the flower of Edo, the festival of the world) and is one of the Three Grand Festivals of Japan alongside of Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri. The main festival is held every other year though the sub-festivals take place in between, and because this year’s is the main festival the anticipation of the Edo people is so much more than mere excitement. For nearly a week the Kanda district will be filled with fervor of the festival including various ceremonies and programs each carried out with great dignity and flamboyance.
[Dates] May 10th (Thu) – May 15th (Tue)
[Time] 5/12              8:00-18:00 (scheduled)
5/13              9:00-16:00 (scheduled)
5/14              11:00               Tea Offering Ceremony
                      18:30              Myojin-Noh (noh & kyougen stage)
[Place] Kanda Myoujin Shrine
2-16-2 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
[Access] 5-min-walk from JR Ochanomizu Station: JR Chuo Line, Sobu Line
[Admission] Free for most of the events
[Inquiry] 03-3254-0753
[URL] http://www.kandamyoujin.or.jp/english/top.html
(Kanda Myoujin Official Site in English)
(photos from Kanda Matsuri, Japanese)
5/18-20, 2007 | 2007 Asakusa Sanja Festival
Taito-ku / Tokyo Prefecture
(Japanese Name: H19 Asakusa Sanja Matsuri)
Asakusa Shrine’s biggest festival Asakusa Sanja Matsuri has excited the Asakusa people’s blood as the wildest and most vigorous festival, and is known as one of the greatest festivals of Edo along with Sanno Festival (Akasaka; June 7-16, 2007), Kanda Festival (Kanda; May, see below) and Fukagawa Festival (Fukagawa; August, main festival once every three years). The fervor of the Edo festivals are by all means different from the heat of others – the Shitamachi (former downtown) people known by their passionate, festive and yet stylish characters from centuries ago turns this festival the wildest of wild, boasting its scale and energy as the flower of Edo.
Apart from the strong and vigorous almost battle-like procession of the mikoshi (portable shrines), a grand and elegant procession called Binzasara-mai goes through the town of Asakusa on the first day Friday, and after reaching the shrine, offers the shrine a beautiful dance praying for rich harvest, business and family prosperity.
[Dates] May 18th (Fri) – May 20th (Sun)
[Time] not yet announced
(usually starts around noontime and ends in the evening on the first two days, and starts at sunrise and ends around 20:00 on the final day)
[Place] Asakusa Shrine
2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
[Access from Tokyo]
  7-min-walk from Asakusa Station: Toei Asakusa Line, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Tobu Isesaki Line
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 03-3844-1575 (Asakusa Shrine)
[URL] http://www.sanja.jpn.org/ 
(Asakusa Sanja Festival, Japanese)
(Asakusa Shrine, Japanese and English, photos)
Spirited Away (2001)
  • Haruki Murakami
  • Yasunari Kawabata
  • Banana Yoshimoto
  • Yukio Mishima
  • Inazo Nitobe
  • Japanese Tea
  • Bonsai
  • VAIO
  • Canon

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