Japan is known for its rich culture and traditions, and one of the best ways to experience it is by attending local festivals. Tokyo, the bustling capital city, is no exception with its wide array of traditional Matsuri that take place throughout the year. From the lively parades to the colorful displays, these festivals offer a glimpse into the country’s vibrant culture.
This list looks at 10 best traditional Japanese festivals in Tokyo that you shouldn’t miss. From the famous cherry blossom festival to the energetic dance performances, there’s always something unique and interesting going on.
Each festival has its unique charm and history, and we’ll take you on a journey through the top 10 festivals in Tokyo. Get ready to immerse yourself in the country’s rich culture and traditions as we explore the best of the best festivals that Tokyo has to offer.
Kanda Matsuri is one of the three most famous festivals in Tokyo, along with Sanno Matsuri and Fukagawa Matsuri. It is held annually in mid-May by Kanda Myojin Shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward. The festival is known for its grand procession, which includes over 200 portable shrines and mikoshi (portable Shinto shrines) carried by participants.
The festival has a history of over 400 years and is one of the oldest festivals in Tokyo. It was initially held to celebrate the completion of the Edo Castle and to pray for peace and prosperity in the city. Over the years, it has evolved into a grand festival that attracts millions of visitors every year.
One of the highlights of the festival is the Yama, Hoko, and Yatai floats, which are decorated with intricate carvings and paintings. These floats are paraded through the streets of Tokyo, accompanied by traditional music and dance performances.
If you’re planning to visit Tokyo in mid-May, Kanda Matsuri is a must-see event.
Next up it’s the huge, Sanja Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s most celebrated (and dare we say wild) festivals, which is held annually in late May in the Asakusa district. This festival is a 3-day celebration of the three founders of Sensoji Temple, who are enshrined in Asakusa Shrine next door to the temple.
The festival attracts over 1.8 million visitors, including Tokyo locals, Japanese tourists, and international tourists from around the globe. During the festival, the activities center around popular tourist attractions Asakusa Shrine and Sensō-ji Temple.
The festival is a traditional festival that dates back to the 14th century. It is one of the largest festivals in Tokyo and is famous for its lively and colorful parade. The parade features portable shrines called mikoshi, which are carried through the streets by enthusiastic participants dressed in traditional clothing with their bums getting a chance to receive some late May sun.
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The Sanno Matsuri rounds up the three most famous festivals of Tokyo, alongside the before mentioned Kanda Matsuri and the Sanja Matsuri. Held in mid-June, this festival has a history of over 1,000 years and is dedicated to the deities of Hie Shrine. The festival starts with a procession of portable shrines, mikoshi, being carried from the shrine to the Imperial Palace and back.
The highlight of the festival is the Jinkosai, a parade of over 500 people dressed in traditional costumes, riding horses and carrying banners and flags. The parade starts from Hie Shrine and goes around central Tokyo, passing by landmarks such as the Tokyo Tower and the National Diet Building. The festival also features traditional music and dance performances.
The Sanno Matsuri is held every two years, alternating with the Kanda Matsuri. The next Sanno Matsuri will be held in 2024, so mark your calendars if you want to witness this spectacular event.
More: Sanno Matsuri
Sumida River Fireworks Festival
The Sumida River Fireworks Festival is one of the most popular and highly anticipated summer events in Tokyo. Every year, thousands of people gather along the banks of the Sumida River to watch the spectacular fireworks display light up the night sky. The festival usually takes place on the last Saturday in July, and it’s free to attend.
The Sumida River Fireworks Festival is known for its impressive fireworks display, which features over 20,000 fireworks launched from boats on the river. The festival also includes food stalls, live music, and other entertainment, making it a fun event for the whole family. To get the best view of the fireworks, it’s recommended to arrive early and stake out a spot along the riverbank.
Access to the Sumida River Fireworks Festival is easy, with stations within walking distance of the festival site. The festival is held near Asakusa Station on the Tobu Skytree Line and Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, and near Kuramae Station on the Toei Asakusa Line.
If you’re planning to attend the Sumida River Fireworks Festival, be prepared for large crowds and long lines.
Cherry Blossom Festivals
Cherry blossom season is a special time in Japan, and Tokyo is no exception. The city is filled with beautiful cherry blossom trees, and during the spring months, many festivals are held to celebrate their beauty. Here are two of the most popular cherry blossom festivals in Tokyo:
Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival
The Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the most popular festivals in Tokyo. The festival is held in Ueno Park, which is one of the best places in the city to see cherry blossoms. During the festival, the park is filled with food stalls, live music, and other entertainment. The festival usually takes place in late March or early April, depending on when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
One of the highlights of the Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival is the nighttime illumination. The cherry blossom trees are lit up at night, creating a magical and romantic atmosphere. The illumination usually starts at around 5 pm and lasts until 8 pm.
Meguro Cherry Blossom Festival
The Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival is another popular festival in Tokyo. The festival is held along the Meguro River, which is lined with over 800 cherry blossom trees. During the festival, the trees are lit up at night, creating a beautiful and romantic atmosphere.
The festival usually takes place in late March or early April, depending on when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. During the festival, the area is filled with food stalls, live music, and other entertainment. It’s a great place to enjoy the cherry blossoms and soak up the festive atmosphere.
Hibiya Park Marunouchi Ondo Bon-odori Festival
Hibiya Bon Odori is a traditional dance festival held in Hibiya Park in late August. It is one of the largest Bon Odori festivals in Tokyo with 40,000 participants every year. The festival is held to celebrate the return of ancestors’ spirits to the earthly realm, and people dance to the festival’s original Marunouchi Ondo beat.
The festival is a great opportunity to experience traditional Japanese culture, especially if you’re interested in dance and music. The festival’s unique Marunouchi Ondo beat is said to have originated in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo. The rhythm of the song is infectious, and it’s easy to get caught up in the festive atmosphere.
During the festival, you’ll see people of all ages dressed in yukata, a traditional Japanese garment. The yukata is a lightweight cotton kimono, perfect for the hot and humid Japanese summer. You can rent a yukata at the festival if you want to fully immerse yourself in the experience.
The festival is not just about dancing, though. There are also food stalls selling traditional Japanese festival food, such as takoyaki, yakisoba, and shaved ice. You can also find games and other entertainment, making it a fun day out for the whole family.
Next up it’s Mitama Matsuri, one of the most significant festivals in Tokyo, held annually in July at the Yasukuni Shrine. The festival is dedicated to the spirits of the soldiers who died in wars, and it is a time for people to pay their respects and pray for peace.
The festival is characterized by the thousands of lanterns that are lit up at night, creating a magical atmosphere. The lanterns are decorated with designs, including Japanese characters, animals, and other motifs. There are also food stalls and game booths, providing entertainment those of all ages.
One of the highlights of the festival is the mikoshi procession, where portable shrines are carried around the shrine grounds. The procession is accompanied by traditional music and dance performances, adding to the festive atmosphere.
If you are planning to attend Mitama Matsuri, be prepared for large crowds, especially during the evening hours. However, the festival is definitely worth the effort, as it offers a unique cultural experience that is not to be missed.
Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri
The Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri is one of the three biggest Edo festivals held in Tokyo, along with Sanja Matsuri and Kanda Matsuri. Nicknamed mizu-kake matsuri— literally water throwing festival—you will soon understand its meaning, where people throw water on the mikoshi, the portable shrines carried in the district.
The festival takes place in mid-August during Obon. The matsuri’s highlight is a parade of sacred mikoshi portable shrines, carried by the locals, young and old, on Sunday. The parade starts at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine and goes around the Fukagawa area. The portable shrines are decorated with gold and silver, and the carriers wear matching happi coats.
During the festival, the streets are lined with food stalls, selling everything from grilled meat skewers to shaved ice. You can also find local shops selling traditional Japanese sweets and snacks. The festival attracts a large crowd, with over 500,000 people cheering on the parade and participating in the water-throwing.
If you plan to attend the Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri, be sure to wear clothes that can get wet and bring a waterproof bag for your belongings. It’s also a good idea to arrive early to secure a good spot to watch the parade.
Koenji Awa Odori Festival
Koenji Awa Odori is one of the largest dance festivals in Tokyo and is held annually in August. The festival is a celebration of the traditional Awa Odori dance, which has over 400 years of history. The festival attracts thousands of visitors each year, who come to watch the colorful dancers and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
The festival takes place over two days and features over 10,000 dancers from different groups and regions across Japan. The dancers, dressed in traditional costumes, parade through the streets of Koenji, accompanied by the sound of taiko drums and other traditional instruments.
The festival is not just about watching the dancers, but also about participating. You can join in the fun by dancing along with the performers. There are also food and drink stalls selling Japanese street food and drinks, making it a great place to try some local cuisine.
If you’re planning to attend the festival, be sure to arrive early to secure a good spot to watch the parade.
Also, be prepared for the heat and humidity of Tokyo in August, as the festival takes place during the hottest time of the year.
Koenji Awa Odori is a great festival to see for anyone visiting Tokyo in August.
Azabu Juban Noryo Matsuri
Azabu Juban Noryo Matsuri is one of the most popular summer festivals in Tokyo. This festival is held every year in August and attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world. The festival takes place in the Azabu Juban district, which is known for its charming streets and traditional atmosphere.
There are also many stalls selling souvenirs and handmade crafts. The festival also features traditional Japanese performances, such as taiko drumming and Awa Odori dancing.
One of the highlights of the festival is the Bon Odori dance, which is a traditional Japanese dance performed during the Bon Festival. The dance is performed around a yagura tower, which is decorated with paper lanterns. Visitors are welcome to join in the dance and experience Japanese culture firsthand.
The Azabu Juban Noryo Matsuri is a great way to experience Japanese culture and enjoy the summer weather in Tokyo. If you’re heading to Tokyo in August, be sure to add this festival to your itinerary
Asakusa Yabusame is a traditional event held in Asakusa, Tokyo, where skilled archers ride horses and shoot arrows at targets. The event is held annually in April at Sumida Park, and it is a great opportunity to watch yabusame, the impressive Japanese martial art.
The event features horseback archery, and you can watch as riders gallop down a 255-meter long track while shooting arrows at three targets. The riders wear traditional samurai costumes, and the event is a great way to experience Japanese culture and history.
The event is free to attend, and it is a great way to spend a day in Tokyo. If you are interested in Japanese martial arts or want to experience Japanese culture, Asakusa Yabusame is an event not to be missed. The combination of horseback riding, archery, and traditional costumes creates a unique and exciting atmosphere that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
One of the most unique and interesting festivals in Tokyo is the Shusse-no-Ishidan Matsuri, also known as the Stairway of Success Festival. This festival is held every other year at the Atago Shrine in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
The highlight of the festival is the “Stairway of Success” – a steep staircase with 86 steps that lead up to the shrine. The staircase is decorated with red and white banners and lined with lanterns, creating a beautiful and festive atmosphere.
During the festival, participants climb the staircase while carrying a wooden board with their wishes written on it. It is believed that if you can climb the staircase without stopping, your wishes will come true and you will achieve success in your endeavors. The festival is especially popular among young people who are looking for success in their careers or studies.
In addition to the staircase climb, the festival also features traditional Japanese performances, food stalls, and other activities. The Atago Shrine itself is also worth visiting, as it offers stunning views of Tokyo Bay and the surrounding city.