Tokyo Daytripper Special: TF Top 10……Quirky Japanese Festivals

It’s a well-known fact that things are done differently here in Japan, far different to Western countries, and this is particularly apparent by way of the the many, many festivals that take place around the calendar up and down the country. There are thousands of local festivals featuring traditional dances and so on which are interesting but as ever it’s usually the quirkier ones which attract the interests of the foreign community. The ones in this list are all within (relatively) easy travel distance from Tokyo metropolis which includes surrounding prefectures Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba.

Here, in no particular order, is the Tokyo Fox top 10……quirky festivals…

1. Kanamara Matsuri @ Kanayama Shrine, Kawasaki-daishi (Kanagawa)

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This is the quintessential quirky festival to attend on the first Sunday each April. Of course there’s some meaningful message behind it all about AIDS and fertility but that seems to get lost amongst the huge crowds that pack this small shrine. More details here

2. Nakizumo @ Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa (Tokyo)

Nakizumo - Sumo Wrestlers Making Babies Cry!  Nakizumo - Sumo Wrestlers Making Babies Cry! 

A couple of sumo wrestlers hold a baby each with the winner being the first one to cry. That’s the baby, not the wrestler by the way! More details here

3. Hadaka Matsuri (mud festival) @ Mimusubi Shrine, Yotsukaido (Tokyo)

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Men in loincloths carry newborn babies into a roped-off muddy swamp area where they then make a mark on their head in mud. It usually takes place in February and also includes some kind of mud wrestling game.  More details here

4. Nagashibina @ Sumida-gawa river, Asakusa (Tokyo)

Edo Nagashibina Feb 2011 011  Edo Nagashibina Feb 2011 016

A more traditional Hina Matsuri event involving 800 yen paper boxes (with a kind-of pop up male and female dolls on it dressed in colourful kimono’s) being dropped down a slide onto river where they float down the river carrying evil spirits away with them.  More details here

5. Fire Walking Festival @ Takaosan Yakuo-in Temple, Takao (Tokyo)

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Buddhist monks walk on fire to burn away their sins and pray for protection against sickness and calamity and for safety within the family. More details here

6. Setsubun (bean throwing festival) @ your home!


Probably the most famous and well-known one in this list. It takes place on February 3rd and involves people throwing beans (one for each year of their life) and eating ehomaki sushi rolls whilst facing a certain lucky direction. More details here

7. Oji Kitsune-no-gyoretsu Fox Parade @ Ōji (Tokyo)


On New Years Eve each year a group of local residents, dressed in traditional costumes and wearing fox masks, gather at nearby Shōzoku Inari and then walk to Ōji Inari, where they celebrate around bonfires. More details here

8. St Patrick’s Day Parade @ Omotesando (Tokyo)

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Who the hell in Tokyo is interested in this event? About 30,000 spectators, thats who!! It seems that global love for the green nation really does stretch to Japan where 2000 participants take part in the parade before everyone heads to an Irish bar to (cliché  alert!) enjoy the craic and some Guiness. More details here

9. Summer Sonic @ Makuharri Messe (Chiba)

summer sonic '06 018  IMG_0921

Traditionally festivals have been blended in with nature and fields aplenty but this is very much an urban festival far removed from all of that. Nothing wrong with that I guess but it’s still a bit strange to be taking a bus between stages or walking over a highway bridge to get from the main stadium stage to the other stages which are all inside an exhibition centre. More details here

10. Katsuura Hina Matsuri @ Tomisaki Shrine, Katsuura (Chiba)


March 3rd is known as dolls festival or girls day whereby homes are usually decorated but this small fishing village quite literally goes a few steps further (62 to be precise!) by displaying a thousand traditional Japanese dolls on the shrine steps. The town actually sets out about 25,000 dolls for the festival. More details here

Bonus: Ningyo Kuyo matsuri (doll burning festival), Kiyomizu Kannon-do Temple, Ueno Park (Tokyo)

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 10.51.03  Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 10.51.21

Not even sure if this one exists anymore but it sure does sound interesting. Dolls burn in an incinerator of last rights for the memory of beloved, old dolls. More details here

Katsuura Hina Matsuri pictures courtesy of
Ningyo Kuyo matsuri pictures courtesy of

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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6 Responses to Tokyo Daytripper Special: TF Top 10……Quirky Japanese Festivals

  1. Pingback: Tokyo Daytripper: Fire-walking Festival In Takao | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

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  3. Pingback: Tokyo Daytripper: Climbing Mount Takao Yet Again! | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

  4. Pingback: Edo Nagashibina 2011 | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

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