Despite festivals and events being regularly held throughout Japan, for the purposes of this guide, a number of the key events in Tokyo and in other parts of the country are listed below. More information on these festivals and others can be found on the Japan National Tourism Organization Web site at:http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/festivals/index.html.
3 Beginning of Spring (setsubun): While setsubun is not actually a national holiday, the beginning of spring is often celebrated at both shrines and temples around the country.
5-11 Sapporo Snow Festival: Held Feb. 5 to 11 in 2010 (the date varies each year and is announced after the summer), this festival has attracted millions over the years and is, as the name suggests, a massive snow festival with ice sculptures created by teams from around the world.
14 Valentine’s Day: Unlike in many other countries, on Valentine’s Day in Japan, women give men chocolate.
3 Doll Festival (hina matsuri): Hina matsuri is also the “girl’s festival”. It is a celebration of the girls in Japanese families and it takes its name from the tradition of displaying dolls within the home.
14 White Day: The opposite of Valentine’s Day, men give women chocolate.
14-15 Spring Festival in Takayama: While Takayama is otherwise one of the nation’s best kept secrets, the spring festival attracts countless people from around the country where traditional antique floats are paraded through the southern part of town.
1-29 Gion Matsuri: The month-long events held near Gion (Kyoto’s famed “geisha district”) make-up what is arguably the most famous festival in Japan. While there are a variety of events that take place during the period, July 17th is most notable as floats are paraded through the area.
7 Star Festival (tanabata): Held on July 7 in the Tokyo area, and on August 7 in Sendai, this is a festival that is not nearly as heavily celebrated as it once was. That aside, the traditions of Tanabata often focused on bringing good fortune, and many displayed bamboo branches that were decorated with pieces of colored paper with wishes drawn across them.
13-15 Obon: Despite this being a “festival”– and not an official national holiday – most businesses close during the period to allow families to return to their hometowns to celebrate their ancestors.
9-10 Autumn Festival in Takayama: Like its spring counterpart, the autumn festival attracts countless people from around the country where traditional antique floats are paraded through the northern part of town.
15 Seven-Five-Three (shichi-go-san): A festival for children aged three, five, or seven. On this day, many young people dress in traditional Japanese garb and visit a Shinto shrine to pray for health, and the future.
24-25 Christmas Eve and Christmas: While Christmas is not a national holiday (that is, many companies remain open for business), there are an increasing number of Japanese that celebrate Christmas.