Festival Calendar

One of the best parts about being in Japan is the incredible amount and variety of festivals that happen throughout the whole year.  There's always an interesting festival happening in Japan, especially during the summer months.  In fact, I think if you had the time and money you could see a different festival every day of the year.  Knowing that, I have decided to make a list to keep track of when festivals are happening throughout the year.  Here is a list of almost 500 festivals listed in chronological order to help make it easier to plan out your next festival in Japan.

The problem is there isn't enough space to fit the whole spreadsheet on this blog in a presentable manner, so I've had to make two spreadsheets for it.  The first one that will be displayed here will only include the date, name and location.  If you want to learn more about the type of festival it is and a brief description, I will also have the full spreadsheet available for viewing.  I am including it as a separate document that can be found here:

I have tried to include as much of the important information about the festivals as I could find from the various guides I own.  The first column is the date or dates of the festival.  Next is the name of the festival.  In the middle is the location of the festival.  This usually comprises of 3 parts.  The first being a specific location, such as a shrine, temple or park.  This is followed by the name of the village, town or city and then by the prefecture.  Some festivals are city wide and don't have a specific place.  For locations with only 1 name, the city is the namesake of the prefecture, so you can assume the prefecture is of the same name.  If the festival's only event is of a common type seen throughout Japan, then I will include it in the 4th column.  In the last column, I have included a brief description of some of the highlights of the festival.  All of the festivals are broken down by month or in two additional categories of duration and lunar calendar.  The duration category is for festivals or events that last through more than one month.  The lunar calendar category is for festivals still using the traditional calendar system and I will provide more information about it below that category.  For the sake of space, I have not added explanations to Japanese terms and names in the list, but I will try to work on a glossary that will explain them if people are interested.  Let me know if you are interested and if you have any suggestion where I should include such a glossary.

Almost all of the information I have gathered from this list are from three guide books that I own that talk about Japanese festivals.  These are:

1. Japan Travel Bureau. Illustrated Festivals of Japan, 12th ed. Tokyo: JTB Publishing Inc., 2006.

2. Rowthorn, Chris, Andrew Bender, Matthew D. Firestone, Timothy N. Hornyak, Benedict Walker, Paul Warham, and Wendy Yanagihara. Japan, 11th ed. Victoria: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd, 2009.

3. Thiro, Rosalyn, Jane Simmonds and Mary Sutherland, eds. Eyewitness Travel Guides Japan, 4th ed. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2005.

If you want to learn more about these festivals, I have found that regular guidebooks are often lacking of info for all but the most famous of festivals.  The 1st source is great for information about festivals, and I'd recommend it as it has lots of festivals, much more information than I have included here and lots of great illustrations on every page about the festivals.  Otherwise, I'd recommend doing an internet search of the festival's name, as people often write a lot of info about them.  If I have gone to any of these festivals, or the places in which they're held, I will include its name as a link instead of text.

The lunar calendar is Japan's traditional calendar and was used until 1873, when Japan switched to the Gregorian Calendar.  The lunar calendar, like many other things, had Chinese origins and this included many of the festivals and their cultural elements.  Due to this, some festivals retain their Chinese or traditional Japanese cultural elements and are still held based on the lunar calendar.  In Japan, a festival being based on the lunar calendar means one of 3 times.  Either the same date is used regardless of the lunar calendar date, the festival is held 1 month later as the lunar calendar is around 1 month ahead of the current calendar or the festival is held based on the lunar calendar regardless of the date on the current calendar.  Because of this discrepancy of 3 possible dates, I have made these festivals a separate category, and it would be best to look up what date it will be held for the current year.