Here in the UK, special days are remarked upon as rampant commercialism, but in Japan, they're more than happy to celebrate thousands of festivals! In fact, there is estimated to be no less than 200,000 different Japanese festivals, but of course, they vary over different regions, towns and villages. No single Japanese person celebrates all 200,000!
Japanese festivals are referred to as Matsuri, and many are related to the various shrines and temples across Japan. They have their roots in religious celebrations, much like many of our holidays do. However, not all Japanese festivals are religious. They are many food, dance and seasonal festivals too that celebrate a huge variety of things. It seems like Japan just really likes to hold a party!
If you're visiting Japan, we're sure you could never attend all of the festivals across the country, but perhaps you could try out these three, which come highly recommended!
The Nebuta Matsuri is a summer festival held in Aomori prefecture, related to the popular Japanese celebration of Tanabata, except this particular celebration attracts millions of people each year. Why? It's unique in having extremely large lantern-lit floats that parade through the streets. There are many teams in the area that spend many weeks making these beautiful depictions of Japanese myths and legends out of wire and washi paper. Amazingly, the extremely heavy floats are then paraded down the streets during the festival, held up on the backs of the teams who made them.
Hanami is the Japanese practice of viewing the Spring cherry blossoms when they are in bloom. It has become such a nationwide past time that Japanese weathermen and women predict the coming of the blooms across the country. During the Hanami period Japanese people will spend time outdoors waling among the cherry blossoms, and eat festival foods such as mochi. Across Japan many stores start to make sakura themed products and foods too, like Japan's McDonald's Sakura burger.
Sapporo Snow Festival
Yearly in February the Japanese city of Sapporo holds a huge snow and ice festival, where sculptors come from across the country to make huge, incredible structures from ice, which are so big you can even do things like climb them. Sometimes they even make castles and buildings from ice which you can explore, or slides made out of ice. The festival now attracts over 2 million visitors.