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Strip Down for Naked Matsuri!

Boisterous festivals are common in Japan, but the following three really take the cake. In the hadaka (naked) festivals that take place in various places in Japan in January and February, the participants are clothed in loincloths, and usually headbands and tabi socks too. Steam rises from the tightly packed, overheated bodies as buckets of ice-water are tossed on them.

Here are three among some of the famous hadaka matsuri.

Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri (Okayama), February 15, 2014

9,000 men wrestle to grab a pair of lucky sticks that have been tossed out of a temple window by a priest. The men fight to grab them and stick them upright in a small wooden square box called a masu that is filled with uncooked rice. The person who succeeds is blessed with good fortune for the year.

For more information, please visit here.

Inazawa Hadaka Matsuri (Aichi), February 12, 2014

Thousands of men of all ages, dressed only covering their bare essentials, and perhaps warmed by some sake before the festival commences, jostle and push against each other to try and reach the shin-otoko or "god-man." Tradition says that the shin-otoko absorbs all the bad luck from those who touch him. He is then rather unceremoniously carried, shoved, and crowd-surfed to the entrance of the Kounomiya Shrine, and deposited inside.

For more information, please visit here.

Doya Doya (Shitennoji, Osaka), January 14, 2014

Two groups of young men, wearing either red or white loincloths, parade to the Shitennoji Temple and battle each other to grab amulets as they are doused with ice-water by the temple elders. The group that gets the most amulets wins the favor of the god of the temple. Young children, some kindergarten age, mimic the older participants in a charming pre-main event show. This ancient ritual is for good harvest, peace, and good luck in the new year.

For more information, please visit here.

October 1, 2013 - March 31, 2014  Sip and Smile! The Sake and Shochu Campaign

Samples of sake and shochu, you say? Just tell me where, and I'm there!

Starting October 1, 2013 and continuing until March 31, 2014, the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, along with Narita International Airport Corporation, Tokyo International Air Terminal Corporation, Central Airport Co., Ltd, and New Kansai International Airport Company, Ltd. are sponsoring a campaign to introduce foreign visitors to Japanese sake and shochu.

Booths will be set up at designated areas in the international departure floors of Narita, Haneda, Chubu, and Kansai airports, offering samples of sake, shochu, and information about both types of beverages.

For more information about this campaign, please visit here.

There will be plenty of other sake-related events scheduled for this winter and the upcoming spring season throughout Japan including the below.

Niigata Sakenojin, March 15 & 16, 2014

For those interested in a more in-depth look at sake and shochu, brewery tours are available (a 5-day tour in Okayama and a 8-day tour through Shiga, Kyoto, Kobe).

For the brewery tours, please visit below.

Amnet We Love "Sake" Tour 2014

Sake Brewery Tours
Okayama (Jan 27 - 31, 2014)
Niigata (Feb 17 - 21, 2014)

February 5-11, 2014 Sapporo Snow Festival

For 7 glorious days, from Feb. 5th - Feb. 11th, 2014, Hokkaido hosts the Sapporo Snow Festival, the northernmost island's most well-known winter event, and one of Japan's largest winter festivals. 2014 marks the 65th year that the city of Sapporo will dazzle and delight the over two million expected visitors with snow and ice statues and sculptures.

First held in 1950 by high school students, the festival consisted of a few snow sculptures, but it has grown exponentially into an internationally known winter spectacular with visitors coming from far and wide, not only to enjoy the sights, but also to participate in sculpture contests with other teams from around the world.

There are three main venues: Odori Park is the main site, with snow sculptures both large and small, often internationally themed; Susukino, which exhibits around 100 ice sculptures; Tsu Dome, which boasts snow slides, snow rafting, and plenty of family fun activities.

All sites are open from morning until late. At night, the sculptures are illuminated, creating a beautiful sparkling snow and ice fantasyland. You can enjoy regional foods from all over Hokkaido (steaming hot ears of corn and hot bowls of ramen are just the thing to take the chill away!), and there are staged performances and concerts, etc., often performed directly on the sculptures!

To enjoy a slightly different perspective on the festival, Sapporo TV Tower offers a fine view of Odori Park from its top observation deck. Tickets, about 700 yen ($7), or 1,000 yen ($10) for a one day and one night visit, are available.

The Sapporo Snow Festival also has special package tours available. For more information, please visit the websites below.

Tokyo and Sapporo Snow Festival 10 Days 2014 (IACE Travel)

2014 Hokkaido Snow Festival Tour - Land Only (JTB USA, Inc.)

For more information about the Snow Festival itself, please visit here.

Unique ways to enjoy Japan's Cherry Blossoms

Japan is home to some of the most beautiful cherry blossoms in the world. People come from all over to join in one of the favorite pastimes of the Japanese people-hanami, or cherry blossom viewing - and Japan has no shortage of unique ways to enjoy the experience! Here are a few of the many unique venues, each with their own characteristic ambience, where visitors may go to delight in the magnificence of Japan's cherry blossoms.

Chidori-ga-fuchi (Tokyo)
Hanami on the boat

On the northern side of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo lies Chidori-ga-fuchi, named for the moat which surrounds the palace, which is considered to be one of the most famous sites in Tokyo to see the cherry trees in bloom; over one million people come to see the blossoms every year. Rent a boat and float languidly down the moat, gazing up at the blossoms that line both sides in breathtaking abundance. There is also a pedestrian pathway a bit under five miles that becomes a cherry blossom wonderland with over 250 cherry trees of many different species that gently curve, creating a tunnel-like effect. After the sun goes down, the blossoms are illuminated.

For more information, please visit here.

The Mint Bureau (Osaka)
Walking through cherry blossom tunnel

The Osaka Mint Bureau is famous for coins, but perhaps more so for the hundreds of mostly late-blooming cherry trees that are available for viewing for one week in mid-April when the garden is open to the public. There are 352 trees and 130 species, including rare varieties, which line a walkway a little over one-third of a mile. They arch grandly overhead, surrounding visitors in a wash of blossoms. The trees are beautiful during the daytime, but when the lights come on in the evening, illuminating them in all their glory, the passage becomes truly enchanting.

For more information, please visit here.

Mt. Yoshino (Nara)
Mountainside awash with cherry blossoms

Nestled in the center of Nara Prefecture, Yoshino is a broad area that includes Mt. Yoshino, home to over 30,000 cherry trees that appear to blanket the entire mountain, or more correctly, the north-facing slope, which is divided into four areas. The cherry blossoms of each area bloom at different times due to the difference in elevation. When they come into bloom, the sight is almost indescribably beautiful, and Yoshino has long been considered Japan's premier location for cherry blossoms viewing. Ascending Yoshino can be almost revelatory in its impact. Each area of the slope has its own charms; some are bustling, with shops, temples and shrines, others a bit quieter, with fewer crowds, and peaceful parks where you might like to spread out a blanket and enjoy hanami.

For more information, please visit here.

Tsuruga-jo Castle (Fukushima)
Contrast of castle with layers of cherry blossoms

This is one of the favorite spots in the Tohoku area to view cherry blossoms with a castle. Renovated in 2011, Tsuruga-jo Castle sits within a sea of approximately 1,000 cherry trees that come into bloom around mid-April. The striking harmony of the abundant blossoms amongst which the castle seems to float is a sight not to be missed. Nighttime visitors can enjoy the blossoms illuminated against the beautiful stone walls of the castle and spectacular castle keep.

For more information, please visit here.

Kawazu Hot Springs (Shizuoka)
Gorgeously illuminated row of cherries

With over 8,000 cherry trees, known for their beautiful pink color and large-sized blossoms which tend to stay in full bloom longer than the most common type of cherry trees in Japan, it is no wonder that Kawazu is home to the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival each year. The trees are captivatingly illuminated in the evening for a spectacular nighttime spectacle. Enjoy the approximately 2 1/2 mile stretch of trees along the Kawazu River as well as many other sites in town. Over one million visitors attend to see these blossoms which come into bloom earlier here than in most other places encompassing Tokyo's outlying areas.

For more information, please visit here.

Early Spring Festivals

Festivals in Japan are some of the most joyful and celebratory events in the country. While they can range from the spiritual to the light-hearted, visitors travel from across the globe to witness and participate in these national pastimes. Plan a trip around one of Japan's major festivals in early spring and you will get a true first-hand look at authentic Japanese culture.

Omizutori (Nara), March 1 - 14, 2014

Omizutori, or sacred water-drawing, is the final part of the Buddhist Shuni-e ceremony held at Todai-ji Temple. It is an ancient festival dated from the mid-8th century. The festival lasts two weeks, and is believed to act as a purification ritual, and also to welcome the spring season. The water is drawn from a spring in front of the temple, and according to legend, it only flows forth once a year, on March 12th. Supposedly blessed, the water is said to have restorative powers.

For more information, please visit here.

Hanatouro (Kyoto), March 14 - 23, 2014

One of the two Hanatouro (the other takes place in Arashiyama in December), this Higashiyama festival celebrates the coming of spring through a special evening illumination festival. Approximately three miles of cobble-stone streets will be adorned with decorations such as LEDs, lanterns, flower arrangements, etc., all specially created for the festival. The sights of such softly glowing lights and decorated illuminated walkways create a romantic and beautiful atmosphere. Shrines and temples in the area will also be decorated and will permit nighttime viewing for visitors at designated hours.

For more information, please visit here.

Tatebayashi Koinobori Festival (Gunma), March 25 - May 9, 2014

A 20 minute walk from Tatebayashi station, along the banks of the Tsuruuda River, is where the annual "World's Greatest Village of Koinobori Festival" is held. It's easy to see why Tatebayashi has earned its title. In 2005, the festival was registered in the Guiness Book of World Records with 5,283 koinobori (decorative streamers in the shape of a carp usually hung on large outdoor poles to celebrate Children's Day, May 5th)! One of the most well-known harbingers of spring, thousands of koinobori blowing in the breeze is quite a sight to behold!

For more information, please visit here.

Kamakura Festival (Kanagawa), April 13 - 20, 2014

The festival is held at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Yabusame, or archery on horseback, is one of the two main events (the other is a formal dance that tells the tragic story of a woman imprisoned and kept from her beloved). Yabusame is the re-enactment of the medieval samurai who shot arrows at a target while their horses were galloping at high speed, supposedly to strengthen their mental prowess.

For more information, please visit here.

The Glory of Spring

After a long, cold, and snowy winter, spring has finally sprung, and the beauty of the season is welcomed not only with sighs of relief, but in a wealth of haru matsuri, or spring festivals taking place all over Japan. Here is a brief introduction to some once-seen, never-forgotten festivals that you won't want to miss!

Haru Matsuri (Takayama, Gifu Prefecture), April 14 - 15, 2014

Takayama in Gifu is home to one of what are considered the three most beautiful festivals in Japan, the Takayama Haru Matsuri, or Takayama Spring Festival. Dancers wearing spectacular hats, a shishimai (lion dance) are, among other entertainment, wonderful crowd pleasers, but the apex of the festival is the procession of the festival floats, or yatai, all built by the local craftsmen, adorned with breathtakingly dexterous large marionettes and cleverly constructed for easy maneuverability around town. When night falls, the magnificent floats turn into a magical vision, illuminated by traditional lanterns and creating an almost otherworldly effect.

For more information, please visit here.

Tokasai & Goshin Noh (Hiroshima Prefecture), April 15 - 18, 2014

The island of Miyajima off the coast of Hiroshima is home to several unique festivals, two of which are the Tokasai or Peach Blossom Festival, and the Goshin Noh, a festival celebrating Noh drama. Tokasai, performed at the Itsukukshima Jinja Shrine, is a celebration of ancient court dance and music that was introduced from Kyoto by Taira Kiyomori, one of Japan's first soldier-dictators. The Goshin Noh, a sacred Noh drama, is also staged at the Itsukushima Shrine. The stage is the only Noh stage in the entire country that rests upon the sea, creating wonderful resonant sound effects from this natural setting. (Other Noh stages are created with a container of water underneath to create this resonance.) The ebb and flow of the tide adds an extra dimension to the quality of the sound.

For more information, please visit here.

Aoi Matsuri (Kyoto Prefecture), May 15, 2014

Held every year in Kyoto on May 15th, the Aoi Matsuri, or Hollyhock Festival, is one of the 3 main annual festivals of the city; the others are Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages) and Gion Matsuri. Some sources claim it was the Emperor's offerings to the sacred spirits of the Shimogamo and Kamigamo shrines that appeased them and brought an end to a string of natural disasters that had devastated the region. This traditional offering became a festival that grew into the beautiful spectacle that it is today, with six hundred men, women and children parading in traditional Heian period dress, accompanied by oxcarts, men on horseback and giant flower bouquets. Hollyhock leaves were once believed to protect against natural disasters, and are used as decoration on clothes and vehicles of the procession. The parade, which takes about 5 hours, travels from the Kyoto Imperial Palace to the Shimogama Shrine and the Kamogamo Shrine, where rituals are performed by designated members of the procession. Horseracing and mounted archery demonstrations are also part of the festival, and you don't want to miss the thrill of watching these skilled equestrians dressed in traditional garb perform. Watching this splendid festival is sure to make you feel like you've been transported back to the Heian period yourself!

For more information, please visit here.

Asakusa Sanja Matsuri (Tokyo), May 16 - 18, 2014

Every year, for three days in May, the Asakusa section of Tokyo, known for its "old town" feel due to traditional residences and streets that co-exist within the most modern of the modern cities, celebrates the Sanja Matsuri. This festival is dedicated to the sacred spirits of the three men who founded the temple Senso-ji, which lies adjacent to the Asakusa Shrine. On the final (and most boisterous) day of the festival, three quite large and highly decorated mikoshi (portable shrines) that weigh about one ton each, are carried along the streets, bounced and jostled by the people shouldering them. Bouncing and jouncing the shrines up and down is believed to intensify the power of the spirit housed inside the mikoshi, and as a result, good luck will be showered down upon the onlookers and bearers. The proceeding two days of the festival are also chock-full of lavishly costumed performers and entertainers, musicians and the like, as well as other, smaller mikoshi which are also paraded through the streets. Shops and food stalls offer plenty of delicious food and souvenirs. This festival attracts about one and a half to two million visitors a year - this year, come join the fun!
For more information, please visit here.

Nikko Toshogu Shunki Reitaisai (Tochigi Prefecture), May 17 - 18, 2014

Toshogu Shrine, dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu who founded the Tokugawa Shogunate, is a Shinto shrine which is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Shunnki Taisai, or Grand Festival of Spring, is the reenactment of Tokugawa's final journey, per the request in his will, from his grave in Shizuoka prefecture to the shrine, built for him by his grandson, where he would be interred. The shrine is actually a mausoleum complex, highly and dazzlingly ornamented. No expense was spared on details that make even the most jaded of tourists gasp in wonder. The festival consists of a grand parade of one thousand men dressed in samurai costumes, and other men mounted on horseback test their archery skills in competitions. Musicians and dancers also perform inside and outside the shrine. It is indeed a fine send-off to one of the most powerful men in the history of Japan.
For more information, please visit here.

Events in the US: Save the Date!

February 28 - March 2, 2014 Seattle Golf & Travel Show 2014

The Seattle Golf & Travel Show is the largest consumer golf & travel show on the west coast with over 200 exhibitors, travel destinations, manufacturer's representatives and demonstrators.

Come visit Japan Booth and meet the Japan Specialists for the updated travel information on Japan. Also if you are a golfer or outdoors person there are a ton of great activities to do at the show! Hop down to the Century Field Event Center and join us! (More information will follow soon!)

JNTO is scheduled to introduce a Destination mini seminar on stage, so please check the website for exact time and day! For more information, please Click here.

When: February 28 - March 2, 2014
Place: CenturyLink Field Event Center at 800 Occidental Ave S. Ste 100 Seattle, WA 98134

Friday, Feb 28th: Noon - 6 p.m.
Saturday, March 1: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday, March 2: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

For more information on directions and parking, please Click here.

March 6 - 8, 2014 Japan Week 2014

This annual multi-day event that takes place at the New York Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall on March 6th through March 8th, began in 2012 to introduce people to the unique features of Japan via cultural events, technology, art and music exhibits, and, of course, food and beverages. This year will spotlight a celebration of Old and New Japan, with one-half the venue transforming itself into early 20th century Japan, and the other half representing Japan's present and future.

Make a point of visiting the replica of a 100-year café with servers dressed in Taisho era costumes who will be serving customers exclusive sake from regions throughout Japan. There will be a virtual reality theatre to guide visitors through Japan's culture heritage, and a special appearance by a master of amezaiku, who transforms candy into marvelous sugar sculptures, and who is one of only a few people left in Japan who still perform this art. There will also be sweepstakes for free roundtrip tickets to Japan from JFK to Narita, sponsored by Delta Airlines.

While you're in town, don't forget to attend Japan Restaurant Week (Feb. 17 - Mar. 16)! Many of the featured dishes will reflect the 100-year theme of Japan Week. Also, be sure to check out the New York Times Travel Show (Feb. 28 - Mar. 2) and the International Restaurant and Food Service Show (Mar. 2 - 4, open to industry only).

Another exciting scene to check out is the 4th Annual Japanese Emerging Artists Exhibition (JART), which showcases the art of 30 emerging young Japanese artists in all different genres from NY and Tokyo, running Feb. 28-Mar. 9. The entire inner space of the Williamsburg Art and Historical Building in Brooklyn will be dedicated to the artists who may use every inch of space in WAH to display their works. The opening reception will be Feb. 28 (Fri), 6:00 - 8:00pm, and Armory Night "Tokyo Animation" will be Mar. 8 (Sat), 7:00 - 10pm.

Last, but far from least, is the 8th Annual Japanese Young Artists' Books Fair, which both exhibits and sells over 100 books by young Japanese artists. Three separate venues will be offering this event-NY Kinokuniya Book Store, Printed Matter, and Book Court.

Come and celebrate with us Japan's artistry, technology, cuisine, and much more!

For more information on these events, please visit here.

March 8 - 9, 2014 Honolulu Festival

Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu, Japan Tourism Agency and Japan National Tourism Organization will promote JAPAN as a travel destination at the Honolulu festival on Mar 8th-9th. Stop by and say hi at the Japan Travel Booth, and get travel free advice- as well as enjoy a healthy green tea tasting by ITO-EN, Japanese snacks and more (limit one per person). If you fill out a survey, you can get a lovely giveaway!!


<Date & Hours>
Mar. 8 (Sat) 10:00am to 6:00pm - Open to the Public
Mar. 9 (Sun) 10:00am to 3:00pm - Open to the Public
http://www.honolulufestival.com/index.php (English)

April 14, 2014 Sakura Matsuri - Japanese Street Festival

The 54th Annual Sakura Matsuri - Japanese Street Festival, presented by the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC takes place on April 14th, and covers six city blocks of downtown D.C. with venues offering live musical and dance performances from both Japan and the U.S., a smorgasbord of tasty treats from 25 food vendors and restaurants-and what matsuri would be complete without frothy, cold glasses of beer and a variety of sake? Beer stations and a sake sampling pavilion keep your whistle whetted! Enjoy the vibrant cultural heritage of Japan through this wonderful festival of arts and culture, and don't forget to visit the vendors selling exquisite Japanese products such as handmade household items, jewelry, and ceramics!

The most convenient way to get to the party is via Metro. You can purchase tickets ahead of time to avoid lines. Tickets for the Sakura Matsuri can be purchased on-line, as well.

For more information, please visit here.

Information is provided as a courtesy to users of this website. Though the JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgement and at their own risk. Neither the JNTO nor any holder of copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.












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