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Sustainable Travel Experiences in JAPAN

Experience Japanese Festivals with History


Experience Japanese Festivals with History

The Japanese word “matsuri” means festival and is derived from “to enshrine.” The focus was usually to offer something to the gods, and these gods are deeply entwined with the origins of Japanese festivals. Although Japanese festivals vary from region to region, every matsuri is a community-wide event and an opportunity to proudly display and preserve local traditions. In the past, the celebrations served as either thanksgiving to the gods for prosperity, or a request to them for a bountiful harvest or to ward away natural disasters. Today, Japan’s festivals enable visitors to witness ancient rituals, performances and lively participation by local residents.

Celebrate summer in Kyoto at the Gion Matsuri 


Since 869, this annual festival has been held by Yasaka-jinja Shrine 




Visit Kyoto City in July, and you can’t miss the festivities of Gion Matsuri. This popular annual festival, held by the city’s Yasaka-jinja Shrine in the neighborhood of Gion, was first celebrated over 1,000 years ago to appease the gods and drive away plagues from the city. Today, Gion Matsuri centers around the exhilarating procession of massive yamaboko floats—the combined name of the Yama and Hoko floats that are pulled through the city streets. As high as 25 meters and weighing up to 12 tons, these ornate floats, adorned with exquisite craftwork including woven fabric, textiles and sculptures, are recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Although an ancient festival, the team behind it are committed to modern sustainability practices, operating a zero-waste campaign since 2014. This means all the night shops and street stalls that operate, serving close to 210,000 meals over the festival, are committed to transitioning from disposable to reusable tableware.


Gion Matsuri 

Kyoto-shi, Kyoto



Observe and enjoy cultural diversity at the Kunchi Festival


The annual autumn festival recognizes Nagasaki’s trading heritage  




For centuries, Nagasaki has been an important Japanese hub for traders and explorers alike. In fact, during the foreign isolation period in Japan between the 17th and 19th centuries, Nagasaki stayed open for business, particularly through trade with China and the Netherlands. Since this era, the annual Kunchi Festival has symbolized the city’s international history. During the festival, one of the biggest in Japan held from October 7–9, people flock to Nagasaki’s Suwa Shrine to pay homage to its guardian god and offer thanks for the city’s success. A different district is in charge of the proceedings each year, which includes dances that take place at designated “dance districts” throughout the city. These dances and rituals reflect the city’s Japanese, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese heritage, making for a truly special festival experience. Due to its unique mix of cultural traditions handed down over generations, the Kunchi Festival was listed as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in Japan. Step into a unforgettable festival experience that is both a treasure of the Nagasaki people and a cultural window to the world.


Nagasaki’s Kunchi

Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki



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