Holidays and Festivals

Life in Japan is punctuated with regular holidays, festivals, and celebrations. Below are just a few you might want to participate in! Check out japan-guide.com for more information on specific festivals throughout the year.

January

  • January 1st: お正月 (New Year)
    • The most important holiday in Japan, observed with special meals and numerous traditions, including writing 年賀状ねんがじょう and making mochi.

February

  • February 3rd or 4th: 節分せつぶん (End of winter)
    • A traditional holiday observing the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Festivities at houses, temples, and shrines typically involve ritually chasing out おに by throwing toasted beans.
  • February 14th: Valentine’s Day
    • Unlike Valentine’s Day in the U.S., in Japan, it’s customary for women to give chocolates to men on this day.
  • First half of February: さっぽろ雪まつり (Sapporo Snow Festival)
    • A days-long event in frigid Sapporo. Snow and ice sculptures are on display, along with numerous activities for the 2 million+ visitors to this annual festival.

March

  • March 3rd: 雛祭りひなまつり (Doll’s Day/Girls’ Day)
    • Families wish their daughters successful and happy lives, and display sets of ornamental dolls.
  • March 14th: White Day
    • A counterpart to Valentine’s Day, on White Day, men give gifts to women.

April

  • April 29th: 昭和の日 (Shōwa Day)
    • Celebration of the birthday of the Shōwa emperor. The beginning of “Golden Week,” a week of many holidays.

May

  • May 3rd: 憲法記念日けんぽうきねんび (Constitution Memorial Day)
    • Recognition and celebration of the 1947 Japanese Constitution. Often a day to reflect on democracy and government.
  • May 5th: こどもの日 (Children’s Day/Boys’ Day)
    • A day designated for recognizing children’s happiness and wishing them success. Look for koi-shaped windsocks on display.

July

  • Third Monday of July: 海の日うみのひ (Marine Day)
    • A recent holiday established to recognize the bounties of the sea and Japan’s dependence upon the ocean for prosperity.

August

  • August 16th: 五山の送り火ござんのおくりび (Five-Mountain Fire Festival)
    • Signifies the end of the お盆おぼん festival. Large fires are set in the hills around Kyoto, signifying the return of deceased family members to the spirit world. Perhaps the most famous of the fires is 大文字だいもんじ, a large character 大 on the mountain known as 大文字山だいもんじやま or 東山ひがしやま, which is lit at 20:00 and is the first of the five fires to be set.

October

  • Second Monday of October: 体育の日たいいくのひ (Health and Sports Day)
    • A day to enjoy sports and celebrate active minds and bodies.

November

  • November 3rd: 文化の日ぶんかのひ (Culture Day)
    • Established to commemorate the announcement of the Constitution, Culture Day is a day to promote culture and appreciation for peace and love.
  • November 23rd: 勤労感謝の日きんろうかんしゃのひ (Labor Thanksgiving Day)
    • A holiday for giving thanks for labor and production, and appreciating one another.

December

  • December 23rd: 天皇誕生日てんのうたんじょうび (The Emperor’s Birthday)