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Wakakusa Yamayaki (Grass Burning Ceremony）
The ceremony holds annually on the forth Saturday of January. Yamayaki is a ritual involving burning the grass covering Mt Wakakusa, a 342m high hill, which overlooks the city. It is one of Nara’s major events and marks the arrival of spring.
Awa Odori Dance Festival
All over the prefecture, centered on Tokushima City
Tokushima's summer festival Awa Odori is world-class. One of the three major Bon Odori festivals in Japan, it has approximately 400 years of history. Female dancers wear yukata and kimono, covering their heads in a woven straw hat, while dancing in beautiful formation with grace and fluidity.
Kito Cedar Log Riding Tournament (Naka)
Naka, Naka District, Tokushima Prefecture
Cedar logs cut from the forest are floated downstream in this contest that allows participants to experience a traditional skill. The Nakagawa River, so clear that sweetfish can be seen swimming on the river bottom from the bridge, is where log riders called "Tobi" ride down the river balanced on just one log. It is fun just watching the local experts perform difficult maneuvers. Practice events are held in June and July.
Himegami Festival (Nakamura, Mugi)
Mugi, Kaifu District, Tokushima Prefecture
This traditional ceremony based on a tale of tragic love features a strange rock enshrined deep in Mugi Oshima, called "Himegami". Participants pray for a good catch and safety on the sea, and after prayers are offered to the 3m long, 1.5m diameter male symbol, it is put on a fishing boat and paraded to Oshima Island 7.5km off the coast. At night, the town is lively with a fireworks display.
Haha River Firefly Festival (Kaiyo)
Kaiyo, Kaifu District, Tokushima Prefecture
The lights of little fairies flutter above the clear firefly river. The lights reflect in the dark river's surface, creating a magical scene. During the Firefly Festival, ride a riverboat on the Haha River to see the fireflies up close.
Shingu City, Wakayama Prefecture
Every year, the Oto Festival is held at Kamikura Shrine on February 6. It's amazing to see the participants holding burning torches in their hands as they run down the 538 steep stone steps of the road approaching the shrine.
Awashima Shrine “Hina-nagashi”
Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture
Known as the home to a guardian deity of women, visitors to Awashima Shrine pray for easy childbirth and pregnancy. In the Hina-nagashi festival, the main hall is stuffed with doll festival dolls collected from all over the country. Dolls purified in the main hall are loaded into a wooden boat, and pulled into the gentle spring ocean harbor where a thousand paper cranes have been released into the water. The shops lining the road to the shrine sell fresh seafood such as sea snails, whitebait, and sea bream.
Kishutoshogu “Waka Festival”
Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture
This is the main festival of Kishutoshogu shrine, which was built to honor Tokugawa Ieyasu, father of the first daimyo lord of Kishul. It was once counted among the three major festivals in Japan, and while it was not held for a time during the war, it has been passed down through 400 years of history. Kishu Toshogu has 108 steep stone steps, and one ton portable shrines are carried down these steps in the "Mikoshi Oroshi" ceremony which starts the festival. This is followed by a procession of approximately 1000 people who perform their many entertaining talents in the Togyo Gyoretsu, which is a soul-stirring and showing event.
Inami Festival (Inami Hachiman Shrine – Yamaguchi Hachiman Shrine Festival) (Inami Hachiman Shrine Festival Wakayama Prefecture Intangible Cultural Asset)
Inami, Hidaka District, Wakayama Prefecture
The Inami Hachiman and Yamaguchi Hachiman festivals are held in advance of the other autumn festivals in the Kinan region. At the Yamaguchi Hachiman festival, six festival floats and portable shrines are carried to Inan Beach, where dances such as the Saiga Odori which has ties to the Kishu-Saiga group, Yakko Odori, and Shishimai are performed. Come to see the festival floats fiercely clash together. Alternatively, at Inan Hachiman, four festival floats and portable shrines jump into the Inan river, and the men dressed in festival costumes carry the floats across the river while up to their shoulders in water, which is an incredible sight to see. The river crossing ceremony is very rare, nationally.
Kobe City, hyogo Prefecture
This flower-focused event is held in the Chuo ward of Kobe, including Sannomiya Higashi, Motomachi Anamon, Nishi Motomachi, Kitanozaka venues. Infiorata is an Italian word that means "blanket with flowers". Farmers in places like Tonami City, Toyama Prefecture, provide flower petals that have been picked in order to grow bulbs, and the unneeded petals are recycled in order to create beautiful flower pictures.
Kobe Umi no Bon Odori (held in Meriken Park)
Kobe City, hyogo Prefecture
This Bon Odori Festival, one of the largest in the Kansai area, is a stage for the live performance of Japan's many traditional folk songs, and it is held at a spot that features Kobe's famous night view. The Bon Odori contest pits teams against each other for teamwork and skill, and there are also many shop stalls with an international flavor. People participate from around the world, and visitors are welcomed into the dance circle, heating up the night at Meriken Park, and coloring it with many brilliant hues. Bring your friends and family along to this event!
Nada no Kenka Matsuri
Himeji City, hyogo Prefecture
This festival is held every October in Shirahama, Himeji, at the Matsubara Hachiman Shrine. See a soul-stirring religious ceremony featuring a parade of floats before the shrine and hall of worship, and the clashing together of festival floats. Last year a Thai TV station came to film the event, and a Hong Kong magazine also came to report on it. Interest about the festival from overseas is growing.
Hirakatajuku Kurawanka Goroku Market (Tsutsumi, Mitsuya, Okamoto, Hirakata City)
Hirakata City, Osaka Prefecture
The Hirakata-juku area was the 56th stop on the Tokaido Highway, as well as a connecting port for the Yodo River boat transport, making it a spot rich in history and culture. Every month, an open-air market is held in the Hirakata-juku area, where visitors can buy high quality handmade items such as accessories, pottery, and more from approximately 200 shops. Every month approximately 6000 shoppers visit the market. "Kurawanka" is a word that was used when selling food and drink to the boatmen travelling the Yodo River during the Edo period, making it a local phrase full of history.
Danjiri Festival (September Festival, October Festival)
Kishiwada City, Osaka Prefecture
The Kishiwada Danjiri Festival has approximately 300 years of history, and over the three-days of this September festival from the trial runs to the official festival, 600,000 people come to watch the spectacle. The festival is held to pray for a good harvest, which is held in September and October, and all over the city 81 danjiri carts are pulled under self-management, self-restraint, and self-policing.
Benten-shu Summer Fireworks Festival
Ibaraki City, Osaka Prefecture
This large-scale fireworks festival features approximately 3000 fireworks launched from 11 starmines located on the temple ground of Benten-shu Meio-ji Temple. The road leading up to the temple is lined with stalls, and approximately 80,000 visitors come to enjoy the fireworks and the festival. In particular, the final starmines fill the night sky with a gorgeous golden waterfall, as bright as broad daylight that dazzles the eyes of everyone watching. The special firework made in the shape of the religion's crest, the bellflower, is rare and special to see.
Nagaokakyo Garasha Festival
Nagaokakyo City, Kyoto Prefecture
This public festival is the most famous of Nagaokakyo City, based on the theme of the tale of love and emotion about the daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide, Tama (aka Hosokawa Garasha), who went to marry the eldest son of Hosokawa Fujitaka, Hosokawa Tadaoki. The festival is based on Tama's bridal procession, with a parade of people wearing historical costumes. The fun takes over the whole city with outdoor booths selling food, drink, and other items, and stage performances.
Nagaoka Tenmangu Hachijogaike Summer Lanterns
Nagaokakyo City, Kyoto Prefecture
Every year on August 25, when the summer festival is held at Nagaoka Tenmangu, approximately 200 handmade lanterns are lined up along the bridge on Hachijogaike Pond. As night approaches, the gentle light from the lanterns creates a magical world. The reflection of the lanterns and the hexagonal pagoda in the water's surface, lighting up the night, is a beautiful sight that shouldn't be missed.
Lake Biwa Fireworks Festival
Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture
The soul-stirring backdrop of Lake Biwa and the beautiful reflection in the lake surface are what makes this fireworks festival special. Approximately 10,000 fireworks of varying sizes are launched, lighting up the night sky with bright colors. The half-sphere shaped star mines that spread out above the lake's surface, the star mines that are launched diagonally, and the giant star mines that feature in the finale are made extra special because of the lake's surface. The fireworks with lights reflecting in the lake surface make it a beautiful and magical festival. This year marks the 30th anniversary of this seasonal tradition on Lake Biwa.