Traditional Japanese festivals are frequently celebrated around shrines and temples, with participants dressed in colorful garb and often hoisting heavy portable shrines on their shoulders.
Summer is the season for fireworks, known as hanabi in Japan, lighting up the skies with spectacular, colorful displays. For a window into traditional Japan, don't miss the Gion Festival in Kyoto, the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, or the hundreds of summer festivals happening in June, July and August throughout Japan.
In winter, snow festivals abound, where anime characters, historical and political figures, and famous architectural wonders are carved into snow and ice, while lanterns light paths lined with igloos. The Sapporo Snow Festival and the Nozawa Fire Festival attract thousands of people every year.
Spring brings flower festivals at the height of cherry blossom season and while other types of flowers are in bloom. Enjoy the food, drink and friendly atmosphere under trees, in parks, around castles, and along rivers. The Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival and the Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Festival are just a few among many to consider.
In autumn, the red Japanese maple leaves called momiji bring people outdoors. Fall festivals held around temples and shrines, such as the Fujiwara Autumn Festival in Hiraizumi, and the Kawagoe Festival, highlight the areas' history with historical parades, noh performances and seasonal food. Fall is also a season when international events like the Tokyo International Film Festival, Tokyo Motor Show and Tokyo Comic Con are held.
For something beyond the standard matsuri, a trip to the quirky Festival of the Steel Phallus in Kanagawa Prefecture will show you that size matters—at least at this festival in early April. Turn up the heat by attending one of the Fire Festivals, including the blazing Nachi Fire Festival on July 14th in Wakayama Prefecture that climaxes in twelve portable shrines in the shape of the Nachi Falls being set alight. Late spring is the setting for flower festivals, such as when baby blue Nemophila blanket the fields of Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki Prefecture. Music festivals are common during the summer, with the headline act being Fuji Rock Festival in Niigata Prefecture.
Events showcasing regional food can often be found in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, and the country's conference centers and forums play host to all kinds of events from tourism forums to presentations of the latest technology.