Festivals & Events

Otsu Festival 大津祭


A festive celebration of Otsu's cultural heritage said to inspire Japan's love of robots

Held just before Sports Day, the second Monday of October, visit the Otsu Matsuri and witness a colorful celebration of mechanical dolls, tanuki racoon dogs, and the rich cultural history of the Otsu area.

How to Get There

The Festival centers on the area around Tenson-jinja shrine, near JR Otsu Station.

Coming from Kyoto , take the JR Biwako line to Otsu Station, about ten minutes away. The walk to the shrine will take you about five minutes.

Celebrating the prosperity of the city

The Otsu Festival, along with the Hiyoshi Taisha Sanno Festival and the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival , is one of Lake Biwa's three great matsuri (festivals) events. They started during the Edo period (1603-1867) to celebrate the prosperity of the city.

Karakuri mechanized dolls displayed

Thirteen beautifully decorated hikiyama floats are paraded around town. What's unique in Otsu is that these floats display karakuri mechanized dolls. The karakuri tradition is said to have inspired Japan's modern love for robots. Festival participants also hand out chimaki rice cakes for good luck.

Tanuki, the parade leader

Be sure to keep an eye out for tanuki, the clever ‘raccoon dog' often seen in statues outside bars and izakaya. Here, he's a centerpiece for the festivities. The story goes that in 1596, a salt vendor joined the Otsu Matsuri parade wearing a tanuki mask. He danced every year until he couldn't dance anymore. Ever since, the parade has been led by a karakuri doll of a tanuki, and revelers themselves don tanuki masks.

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