Events to Attend in Japan

Japan, being a country with 125 million in population, has thousands of events happening every day that you could possibly attend! But if you don’t speak fluent Japanese, many of these fantastic events are closed to you simply because you will never find them.

Read more: The top things I did when in Japan.

Shows and Performances

There are shows like sumo wrestling, Kabuki Theater, Makai wrestling theater, and the robot restaurant that have tons of scheduled dates available. Checking a calendar or keeping an eye out for posters is often the only way to find these events.

Kabuki Theater

Kabuki theater is a traditional form of Japanese theater that dates back to the early 17th century. It is known for its elaborate costumes, stylized movements, and vibrant storytelling, and is considered one of Japan’s most iconic and culturally significant art forms.

Kabuki plays usually feature historical and/or mythical stories that are acted out by a cast of all-male performers. The actors use a variety of dramatic techniques, such as exaggerated facial expressions, intricate dance movements, and stylized poses, to convey the emotions and actions of their characters. The costumes and makeup used in Kabuki are also elaborate and colorful, with each character’s attire and makeup serving to represent their social status and personality.

In addition to its theatrical elements, Kabuki also incorporates a range of other artistic forms, such as music, dance, and puppetry. The music used in Kabuki plays is typically performed by a live orchestra, and includes traditional Japanese instruments such as the shamisen and taiko drums. It’s quite fun to see them make the sound effects for the show right before your eyes. Usually you can get a device with subtitles or an in-ear audio guide for Kabuki shows.

Matsuri Shows

Matsuri or traditional festivals, are an integral part of Japanese culture and take place throughout the year in different regions across the country. These festivals are lively and colorful affairs that offer a glimpse into the vibrant and festive side of Japanese culture. Matsuri typically involve processions, music, dance, and plenty of food and drink.

One of the main highlights of any Matsuri is the traditional performances that take place during the festival. These performances can vary widely depending on the festival and the region, but typically involve a range of traditional art forms, such as taiko drumming, dance, and theater.

Taiko drumming is a popular feature of many Matsuri and involves a group of drummers playing large, traditional Japanese drums in a synchronized and energetic performance. The rhythms of the taiko drums are meant to mimic the heartbeat of the festival and create an exciting and immersive atmosphere.

Dance is another common form of performance at Matsuri and can range from traditional folk dances to more contemporary styles. These dances are often performed by groups of performers dressed in colorful and intricate costumes that are specific to the region and festival.

Theater is also a popular form of performance at Matsuri, with traditional forms such as Noh and Kabuki being showcased alongside more modern styles of theater. These performances are typically accompanied by live music and are meant to be entertaining and engaging for audiences of all ages. I saw a very fun theater performance involving a monster-like creature at the Honozono Shrine.

Seasonal Events

Spring: Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival, Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Festival

Summer: Gion Festival (Kyoto), Aomori Nebuta Festival in Aomori, and hundreds of other summer festivals

Fall: Fujiwara Fall Festival in Hiraizumi and the Kowagoe Festival, TIFFCOM film fest, and Tokyo Motor Show.

Winter: Sapporo Snow Festival and the Nozawa File Festival.

Friend-making Events

There are events like the Tokyo English Meetup FRON and Gaitomo that are tailored to foreigners and Japanese alike. Many of these events can be focused on dating, but some are more about practicing language skills with new people and making connections and friends. The events sometimes include all-you-can-drink (Nomihodai).

Notable Events

World Cosplay Summit

Once a year characters from anime and video games will completely overtake the city of Nagoya for the World Cosplay Summit. A cosplay festival where people dress as their favorite characters, the summit brings cosplayers from all over the world. Enjoy the hard work and passion of these amazing fans and enjoy looking for your favorite characters. The festival is held every year from the end of July to the beginning of August, with the parade and championship being held on the first Saturday and Sunday of August

Atsuta Festival

The famous 1,900-year-old Atsuta-jingu Shrine hosts the Atsuta Festival in early June every year, signaling the coming of summer. The festival comes to life with incredible dances, drum performances, Kento Makiwara floats and seasonal cotton kimono worn by the festival’s visitors.

Yamaga Lantern Festival

In Kumamoto Prefecture , the summer is filled with festivals and events. However, the Yamaga Lantern Festival is one of the brightest of these events. Yamaga is famous for its lanterns, and hundreds of them are used during the festival. Many women even wear them on their heads for the slow summer dance they perform as part of the festivities. The celebrations also feature a fantastic firework display with over 4,000 fireworks lighting up the sky.

Kanda Matsuri

Kanda Matsuri is a huge Shinto festival in Tokyo that has been ongoing since the Edo age. Held at the Kanda Myojin Shrine in Chiyoda City, the festival takes over nearby districts all the way from Kanda to Akihabara and beyond. Thousands of participants and thousands more spectators takeover the streets for the festival. The larger “honmatsuri” version takes place on odd-numbered years, and a smaller and simplified version is held on even-numbered years. Complemented by events throughout the week, the main attractions usually occur over the weekend closest to May 15. On the weekend there are day-long processions on Saturday and parades of mikoshi on Sunday.