Matsuri (Japanese festivals)

Japanese festivals are traditional festive occasions. Some festivals have their roots in Chinese festivals but have undergone dramatic changes as they mixed with local customs.

Some are so different that they do not even remotely resemble the original festival despite sharing the same name and date. There are also various local festivals (e.g. Tobata Gion) that are mostly unknown outside a given prefecture. It is commonly said that you will always find a festival somewhere in Japan.

Unlike most people of East Asian descent, Japanese people generally do not celebrate Chinese New Year (it having been supplanted by the Western New Year’s Day in the late 19th century); although Chinese residents in Japan still do. In Yokohama Chinatown, Japan’s biggest Chinatown, tourists from all over Japan come to enjoy the festival. And similarly the Nagasaki Lantern Festival is based in Nagasaki’s Chinatown.

Festivals are often based around one or two main events, with food stalls, entertainment, and carnival games to keep people entertained. Some are based around temples or shrines, others hanabi (Fireworks), and still others around contests where the participants sport loin cloths.

Local festivals
Matsuri (祭) is the Japanese word for a festival or holiday. In Japan, festivals are usually sponsored by a local shrine or temple, though they can be secular.
There is no specific matsuri days for all of Japan; dates vary from area to area, and even within a specific area, but festival days do tend to cluster around traditional holidays such as Setsubun or Obon. Almost every locale has at least one matsuri in late summer/early autumn, usually related to the rice harvest.
Notable matsuri often feature processions which may include elaborate floats. Preparation for these processions is usually organized at the level of neighborhoods, or machi. Prior to these, the local kami may be ritually installed in mikoshi and paraded through the streets.
One can always find in the vicinity of a matsuri booths selling souvenirs and food such as takoyaki, and games, such as Goldfish scooping. Karaoke contests, sumo matches, and other forms of entertainment are often organized in conjunction with matsuri. If the festival is next to a lake, renting a boat is also an attraction.
Favorite elements of the most popular matsuri, such as the Nada Kenka Matsuri of Himeji or the Neputa Matsuri of Hirosaki, are often broadcast on television for the entire nation to enjoy.
Some examples of famous matsuri are the Jidai, Hadaka Matsuri, Aoi and Gion Matsuri held in Kyoto; Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka; and the Kanda Matsuri, Sannō and Sanja Matsuri of Tokyo. Especially, Gion Matsuri, Tenjin Matsuri, and Kanda Matsuri are the three most famous matsuri in Japan.

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