Matsuri (祭) is a Japanese word for festival or holiday. Japan is a beautiful country with hundreds of traditional festive occasions, so the phrase ‘Japanese Matsuri’ is widely known for those occasions. If you’re planning to visit Japan and want to enjoy the Matsuri, here’s what you need to know!
1. Japanese Matsuri varies widely throughout Japan
Almost every shrine in Japan has their own Matsuri, that’s why there are so many kinds of Japanese Matsuri. The time of the Matsuri also varies from one month to another. For example, there are Sapporo Snow Festival that is held every year in early February in Sapporo, Dance Festival of Awa Odori in Tokushima City in mid-August, and Gion Matsuri that takes place over the entire month of July. Every Matsuri also has their own characteristics. Some of them might be calm and tranquil while some are more high-spirited!
2. Parades; the core element of Japanese Matsuri!
In Japanese Matsuri, the most important element is the parades. The parade is the only time for the local shrine's deity (or known as kami) to be carried through the town in palanquins. Some festivals also have decorated palanquin in a parade where people play drums and flute on it, which makes the moment more festal and exciting!
3. Various food from 'Yatai' or Food Stalls
There are a lot of foods that can be enjoyed during Japanese Matsuri. Usually, the foods are sold in a portable food stalls called ‘Yatai’. They sell many kinds of food such as okonomiyaki (traditional Japanese pancake), takoyaki (octopus-filled batter balls), yakitori (grilled meat on skewers), etc. Above all, the most iconic food in Japanese Matsuri is Ringo-Ame which means candied apple. Ringo-Ame is a caramelized apple, sold as a whole candied apple on a stick, so it can be eaten easily while you walk around and enjoy the Matsuri!
4. Countless unique entertainments
Besides food, there are so many entertainment stalls in Japanese Matsuri. These entertainment stalls usually provide a game with various prizes. The most iconic entertainment is Kingyo-Sukui, in which you must catch a goldfish in a pool using a paper scoop. Here’s how to win the game: you have to catch the goldfish without tearing the paper scoop. Think you could do it? Aside from Kingyo-Sukui, there are also Shateki (shooting at targets to win prizes), Wanage (ring-tossing), Yoyo-tsuri (fishing for water-filled balloons using a paper string), and so many more!
5. Festival dress code!
The truth is, there is no dress code for the Matsuri, so you can show up wearing whatever you want. Many people visit Japan Matsuri wearing casual clothes, but wearing traditional Japanese clothes is a popular choice too. Some Japanese people wear yukata, a clothes made of lighter and thinner material than the usual kimono to Matsuri. They also wear traditional Japanese sandals called geta (which can be hard to wear for some people!) and hair accessories. If you want to go to Matsuri wearing a yukata, don’t forget to bring your kinchaku (a drawstring bag) to complete your getup! Check out our how to properly wear your yukata guide as well as our cutest accessories for your yukata blog too!