Japan Rail Pass Guide

Japan Rail Pass Guide

The Japan Rail Pass, also known as a JR Pass is a cost effective rail pass that is available to overseas visitors to Japan. The pass entitles the holder to unlimited travel on the extensive JR rail network for one, two or three weeks, which includes the famous shinkansen (bullet trains) and selected JR buses and ferries.

Purchasing a Japan Rail Pass is well worth it and will save you money if you plan on making multiple trips within Japan. It offers the most affordable way to travel around, especially if you plan on seeing the must see destinations in Japan, such as the ‘Golden Route’ of TokyoKyotoNaraOsakaHiroshimaTokyo.

Types of Japan Rail Passes

The pass comes in two different types, one for each class of service, Standard, also known as economy and Green Car, also known as executive-class or first-class. The Green Car offers more spacious seats, more foot space and enhanced service than economy.

How the Japan Rail Pass Works

The Japan Rail Pass is only available to short term foreign tourists to Japan, and must be purchased outside of Japan. It is only available to people who enter Japan under the visa status of ‘temporary visitor’. To order the pass, you must first purchase an ‘exchange order’ via the internet, which can be validated once you are in the country. You receive a voucher that is exchanged to the actual pass once you are inside Japan and within three months of purchase.

The pass is time limited with three time periods available: 7 day, 14 day and 21 day. You can select an activation date, when transforming your ‘exchange order’, which can be up to 30 days from the time of transformation, so you don’t need to activate it right away.

Here is how the Japan Rail Pass works in six easy steps:

1. Buy your Japan Rail Pass – you can choose between 7, 14 or 21 days and select Economy or Green Car (executive class).

2. Receive your exchange order – you will be shipped your Exchange Order, this is required in order to receive your actual pass in Japan.

3. Go to Japan with your Exchange Order.

4. Get your ‘Temporary Visa’ stamp –if you’re Australian you will automatically receive a temporary visa stamp in your passport on arrival.

5. Transform your Exchange Order into a Japan Rail Pass – locate the nearest JR Travel Service Center to change your exchange order into your Japan Rail Pass.

6. Discover Japan using your Japan Rail Pass – now is the fun part you can start using your Japan Rail Pass to discover all that Japan has to offer.

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth the cost? It really depends on your itinerary and how much long distance travel you plan on doing. If you just plan on travelling within Tokyo then it is not worth it. If you plan on visiting some popular destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kanazawa, Takayama, Hiroshima and Miyajima, then it is definitely worth it and the most affordable way to travel around. To give you a general idea, a return trip from Tokyo to Kyoto will cost you around the same price as a 7-day Japan Rail Pass. If you plan on traveling more than that, definitely get it.

A good tool to help plan your trips in Japan and work out how much train travel costs in Japan is the Hyperdia website. Use this site to see how much it will cost to visit the places you want to see and compare it to the cost of one of the rail passes.

You can get your hands on a great-value-for-money Japan Rail Pass by visiting the Japan Rail Pass Now website.

Japan Rail Pass

Festivals and Events for January 2017 in Japan

oshogatsu New Year's in Japan

Festivals and Events for January 2017 in Japan

January in Japan is the middle of winter with cold temperatures throughout the country. It is typically one of the coldest months, but it is still a good time to travel with clear crisp days and blue skies. Most of the country shuts down for New Year’s but re-opens again around January 4th. There are quite a few traditional cultural festivals and events happening around this time of the year in Japan to enjoy.

Here are a few of the most popular January festivals and events in Japan.

1-3 January 2017

Event: New Year’s (oshogatsu)
Location: All over Japan

New Year’s or oshogatsu in Japanese is one of the most important holidays on the calendar. It is a time to look back to the past and follow the traditional customs of the festive season. Most people will return home to spend the time together with their family, kind of like Christmas in the West. It is a popular tradition to visit a temple or shrine at midnight on December 31st. The most important ritual is hatsumode, which is the first visit to the local shrine to pray for health, happiness and prosperity.

Read more about New Year’s traditions and customs in Japan

6 January 2017

Event: Dezomi-shiki (New Year’s Parade of Firemen)
Location: Tokyo
Time: All Day
Price of Admission: FREE

The Dezomi-shiki or New Year’s Parade of Firemen is a fun way to celebrate New Year’s in Tokyo with thrilling acrobatic performances and a spectacular historical reconstitution of Edo period fire-fighters in action. The event features a parade of over 100 vehicles and helicopters from the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department, large-scale fire-fighting and emergency drills and various spectacular performances including a display of death-defying ladder stunts, which pay homage to the tradition of Edo period firemen.

Official Website

8-22 January 2017

Event: Sumo Hatsu Basho (Opening Tournament)
Location: Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo

The first sumo tournament of the New Year starts in Tokyo and is always keenly anticipated. All eyes will be on Japanese rikishi, Shodai after he received his first promotion to sumo’s third highest rank of Sekiwake for this tournament. The young wrestler from Kumamoto is a rising star and has quickly climbed the ranks of sumo’s elite.

9 January 2017

Event: Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day)
National Holiday

Coming of Age Day or Seijin no Hi is a special ceremony held on the second Monday of January for boys and girls who will reach the age of 20. It marks the rite of passage into adulthood for 20-year-olds in Japan. Twenty is considered the beginning of adulthood in Japan, and is the age when you can legally vote, drink and smoke. Girls in kimono and boys in suits or hakama will visit large shrines to celebrate. Special ‘Coming of Age’ ceremonies are also held at local city offices across the country to congratulate and encourage the new young adults.

15 January 2017

Event: Nozawa Fire Festival
Location: Nozawa Onsen Village, Nagano Prefecture
Time: 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Nozawa Fire Festival is a powerful and energetic winter festival held at the traditional Japanese onsen village of Nozawa Onsen in the Japan Alps of Nagano Prefecture. The festival features fire, snow and sake, as well as several parades and ceremonies in the village square. The highlight of the festival is the “fire-setting” battle, which features a large wooden shrine constructed specially for the occasion. The festival climaxes with a massive bonfire as the wooden shrine succumbs to the flames of the victors and is offered to the gods.

Official Website

15 January 2017

Event: Santera Mairi Festival
Location: Hida Furukawa
Time: Held during the evening
Price of Admission: FREE

The Santera Mairi Festival (three temple pilgrimage) is held in the beautiful small town of Hida Furukawa, which is just north of Hida Takayama in Gifu Prefecture. During the festival, 1000 candles line the Seto-gawa River creating a stunning landscape in combination with the snow. The candles called warosoku (Japanese candles) are a specialty of Hida Furukawa. There are also 40-50 ice sculpture candles made of snow which can be seen in the main streets of the old town.

Official Website

22, 23, 29, 30 January 2017

Event: Shirakawa-go Winter Illumination
Location: Shirakawa-go Village, Gifu Prefecture
Time: 17:30 – 19:30
Price of Admission: FREE

Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its gassho zukuri farmhouses. This place has been famous for years due to its steeply slanting thatched roof farmhouses, which look just like two hands joined together in prayer. The beauty of the village is raised to an even higher level when the houses are lit up in the snow during winter. Spotlights illuminate the snow-covered thatched roofs and surrounding grounds, which makes the village look like a magical winter wonderland straight out of a fairy tale.

Official Website

25 January 2017

Event: Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival
Location: Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

Originating in the 18th century, the burning of Mount Wakakusa is one of Japan’s most spectacular festivals. It is held on the fourth Saturday of January, with the mountain being set alight by fire, while simultaneously fireworks light up the sky. It is believed to have started over a boundary dispute between Kofuku-ji Temple and Todai-ji Temple in Nara. The festival starts with a torch being lit with sacred fire at Kasuga Taisha Shrine. The fire is carried by Buddhist monks to a small shrine at the foot of the mountain. Then, the mountain is set alight by members of Kofuku-ji, Todai-ji and Kasuga Taisha.

Festivals and Events for January 2017 in Japan

NINJA WiFi Japan Holiday Campaign

Ninja WiFiNINJA WiFi is a rental mobile WiFi router that enables you to use the internet on your smart phone or table by connecting to the local mobile phone network in Japan. NINJA WiFi is easy to use and can be used anywhere in Japan. You simply pick up the router at the airport when you arrive in Japan and return it at the airport when you leave.

In addition, smartphones and PCs can be used simultaneously by friends of family members with only one mobile WiFi router.

How to Use NINJA WiFi in Three Easy Steps

Step 1 Register by completing the application form prior to your desired pickup date. Payment is accepted by credit card.
Step 2 Choose between pickup at the airport, pickup counter or delivery.
Step 3 You can choose between return at the airport, or by return delivery.

NINJA WiFi Holiday Campaign

NINJA WiFi Japan is currently having a Special Winter Campaign for their service during the month of December. For a limited time only, they are offering Japan Travel Advice readers a special 20% discount if they order the service from our website from now until the end of December. The regular price of 900 yen per day is reduced to only 720 yen per day. A great deal for unlimited internet in Japan during your travels.

For more details about NINJA WiFi, please visit the NINJA WiFi Website

NINJA WiFi Japan Holiday Campaign

Festivals and Events for December 2016 in Japan

Festivals and Events for December 2014 in Japan

Festivals and Events for December 2016 in Japan

December in Japan is the start of winter and the colder months. It is a great time to enjoy the spectacular winter illuminations which can be seen across Japan. The weather is cool to cold with the ski/snowboard season officially opening at ski resorts across the country. Snow has already starting falling in Hokkaido, Tohoku and The Japan Alps. There are also quite a few traditional cultural festivals and events happening around this time of the year.

Here are a few of the most popular December festivals and events in Japan for 2016.

2-3 December 2016

Event: Chichibu Yomatsuri
Location: Chichibu Shrine, Saitama
Time: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Chichibu Yomatsuri is one of Japan’s ‘Three Greatest Float Festivals’ and is held at Chichibu Shrine in Saitama near Tokyo. The festival is held at night and is one of the most spectacular winter festivals in Japan. It features gorgeous large festival floats and mikoshi portable shrines against a backdrop of mountains and fireworks. The impressive fireworks display lasts for close to two and a half hours and is a rare chance in Japan to see fireworks in winter.

Official Website

14 December 2016

Event: Gishi-sai Festival
Location: Sengakuji Temple, Tokyo
Time: 7:00 am to 9:00 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Gishi-sai festival held at the Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo commemorates and honours the famous 47 ronin, who in 1703 avenged their master’s death by killing his adversary. The story is one of Japan’s best loved tales and it is here at Sengakuji Temple that you will find the graves of the 47 loyal servants and their master, Lord Asano. The festival features traditional dances, a memorial service and the highlight, a warrior procession (Gishi Gyoretsu) of volunteers dressed as the 47 ronin, who parade through the streets.

Official Website

15-18 December 2016

Event: Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri
Location: Wakamiya Jinja Shrine, Nara
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

The On-Matsuri is held at Wakamiya Jinja Shrine in the precincts of the Kasuga Taisha Grand Shrine in Nara. It was first held in the 12th century to pray for the end of epidemic plague and for a rich harvest. The festival goes for 4 days with the 17th the main day with the Jidai Gyoretsu (Procession of the Eras). It features costumes from the Heian Period to the Edo Period (9th Century to 19th Century).

Official Website

23 December 2016

Event: The Emperor’s Birthday (Tenno no Tanjobi)
National Holiday

The Emperor’s Birthday is celebrated on December 23 which is a National Holiday in Japan. The date is determined by the reigning Emperor’s birth date. The current Emperor, Akihito was born on this day in 1933. A public ceremony takes place at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, where the gates of the palace are opened for the public. It is a rare chance to see Japan’s beloved emperor out in public.

31 December 2016

Event: Oga no Namahage Festival
Location: Oga Peninsula, Akita
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

Held on New Year’s Eve around Oga City in Akita Prefecture. The festival features Namahage, a strange deity resembling a demon, known as oni in Japanese. It is an ancient folk tradition where young men dress as the Namahage and visit the homes of children to warn them not to be lazy or bad in the coming new year. The event has been passed down from generation to generation since ancient times.

Official Website

Festivals and Events for December 2016 in Japan

Festivals and Events for November 2016 in Japan

November Autumn Colours in Japan

Festivals and Events for November 2016 in Japan

November in Japan is typically the best time to see the beautiful autumn foliage in places like Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Central Japan. Please check out our Autumn Colors Report for more details. The weather starts to cool down due to winter approaching with pleasant cool nights and mornings. The weather is beautiful for travel in Japan with clear blue skies and crisp autumn days. There are quite a few traditional cultural festivals happening around this time of the year.

Here are a few of the most popular November festivals and events in Japan.

2-4 November 2016

Event: Karatsu Kunchi Matsuri
Location: Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

Karatsu in Saga Prefecture in the north-western corner of Kyushu comes alive for this spectacular autumn cultural festival, which has been designated a festival of national cultural importance. The festival dates from 1592, and is considered to be one of the major festivals of the Kyushu area. The highlight of the festival is the massive, exquisitely decorated festival floats called hikiyama. The floats are made of wood, washi paper and clay, which is lacquered and covered in gold or silver leaf. Each float is a masterpiece and takes between two and three years to complete.

Official Website

3 November 2016

Event: Bunka no Hi (Culture Day)
National Holiday

Bunka no Hi or Culture Day is a Japanese National Holiday on November 3rd. The purpose of the holiday is to promote culture, the arts and academic endeavour in Japan. Typically events such as culture festivals, art exhibitions, and parades are held on this day. Culture Day was first held in 1948 to commemorate the announcement of the new post-war Japanese constitution.

3 November 2016

Event: Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu
Location: Yumoto Onsen, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture
Time: 10:00 am to 2:30 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Hakone Daimyo Gyoretsu is one of Japan’s most exciting and spectacular autumn cultural festivals held at the picturesque Yumoto Onsen in Hakone, west of Tokyo. The festival is held every year on November 3, which is a national holiday in Japan fittingly called Bunka no Hi (Culture Day). It commemorates the journey of Japan’s daimyo, or feudal lords from the capital Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to the provinces during the Edo Period (1603-1868). The festival features marching bands, dancing-girls and a grand feudal lord’s procession with around 200 costumed locals in historical attire.

Official Website

6 November 2016

Event: Nakasendo Festival
Location: Nakatsugawa, Gifu Prefecture
Time: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Nakasendo Festival is a unique local Japanese festival that celebrates the famous Nakasendo Road in Japan. The Nakasendo was an ancient road that connected Kyoto with Edo (modern-day Tokyo). It was a spectacular inland journey through the heart of Japan and places like Shiga, Gifu, Nagano, Gunma and Saitama. The festival features local food and souvenirs as well as various dance performances and free mochi rice cakes.

Official Website

13 November 2016

Event: Arashiyama Momiji Festival
Location: Arashiyama, Kyoto
Time: 10:30 am to 12:00 pm & 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Arashiyama Momiji Festival recreates the atmosphere and traditions of the ancient Kyoto Heian court with traditional performances and events with the stunning autumn colours as an amazing backdrop. Held in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto on the second Sunday of November, it features traditional dance, music and art performances. The highlight of the festival is the re-enactment of the nobles cruise down the Oi River in small boats.

Official Website

13-27 November 2016

Event: Fukuoka Grand Sumo Tournament
Location: Fukuoka, Kokusai Center

The Fukuoka Grand Sumo Tournament runs from November 13 to 27 and is the last sumo tournament of the year. It is the only grand sumo tournament held in Kyushu. The event first started in 1957 when it was upgraded from an exhibition tournament to a formal tournament. This year interest will be on Japanese Ozeki, Goeido after his maiden tournament victory at the September Grand Sumo Tournament with a perfect 15-0 record. Japanese wrestler, Endo will also be a popular draw-card after his stellar 13-2 record in the last tournament.

Sumo Japan’s Traditional Sport

13 November 2016

Event: Shichi-Go-San
Location: All over Japan

Shichi-Go-San is a Japanese festival in honour of girls aged three and seven, and boys aged five. On November 15 or the closest weekend, children dress in their finest clothes and visit shrines and temples with their parents, where they pray for good fortune and healthy growth of the children. Children usually dress in traditional kimono or modern-day suits to visit the shrines and temples.

23 November 2016

Event: Kinro Kansha no Hi (Labour Thanksgiving Day)
National Holiday

Kinro Kansha no Hi or Labour Thanksgiving Day is a National Holiday which takes place annually on November 23. It is a day to commemorate labour and production, as well as for giving one another thanks. Special events are held throughout Japan, that encourage thinking about the environment, peace and human rights. The National Holiday was established in 1948 to mark some of the changes of the postwar constitution of Japan, including fundamental human rights and the expansion of workers rights.

Festivals and Events for November 2016 in Japan

Festivals and Events for October 2016 in Japan

Oda Nobunaga Festival in Gifu

Festivals and Events for October 2016 in Japan

October in Japan is the middle of autumn with the weather generally warm during the day and cool in the mornings and evenings. October is a good time to travel in Japan with clear sunny skies and beautiful mild temperatures. The autumn foliage peaks in Hokkaido, and starts in Tohoku, Nikko, Kamikochi and The Japan Alps and Nagano in October. Check out our Autumn Colors Forecast for more information. There are also quite a few traditional cultural festivals and events happening around this time of the year.

Here are a few of the most popular October festivals and events in Japan.

11 May to 15 October 2016

Event: Gifu Ukai (Cormorant Fishing)
Location: Nagara River in Gifu City
Time: Starts from 7:30 pm
Price of Admission: A fee applies for the viewing boat

Cormorant Fishing or ukai in Japanese is a major summer attraction on the Nagara River in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Ukai is a traditional fishing method that uses trained cormorants to catch river fish. The art has been practiced along the Nagara River in Gifu for more than 1,300 years. It has a very long history in Japan and is mentioned in many ancient chronicles.

Gifu Cormorant Fishing

1-2 October 2016

Event: Gifu Nobunaga Festival
Location: Downtown Gifu City
Time: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Price of Admission: Free

The Gifu Nobunaga Festival honours the feats of Oda Nobunaga, a samurai warlord who used Gifu City as a base on his mission to unify Japan during the Warring States period (Sengoku jidai) of Japan. It is a celebration of his contribution towards the construction of Gifu City and the legacy that he has left behind. The must see events are the memorial ceremony at Sofuku-ji Temple (Nobunaga’s family temple), the Kogane Park Flea Market, and the samurai warrior parade down the main street of Gifu City.

Official Website

Gifu Oda Nobunaga Festival

7-9 October 2016

Event: Nagasaki Kunchi Festival
Location: Nagasaki City
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

The Nagasaki Kunchi Festival is Nagasaki’s most famous festival and has been celebrated for close to 400 years now. The festival is held annually on October 7-9, and originally began as a celebration of autumn harvests. The festival incorporates different aspects of both Chinese and Dutch culture, which have played an important part in the city’s history. It features various dance and show performances along with traditional Japanese dances, Chinese dragon dances and festival floats.

Official Website

9-10 October 2016

Event: Takayama Autumn Festival
Location: Hida Takayama
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

One of Japan’s three most beautiful festivals, it is held twice a year in spring and autumn in Hida Takayama. The Takayama Autumn Festival is held annually on October 9-10, and is the annual festival for the Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine. It is also referred to as the Hachiman Festival. The festival is famous for its parade of elaborately decorated floats called yatai in Japanese, as well as its karakuri ningyo mechanical marionette puppets. Many people regard the evening festival on the first day as the highlight of the festival.

Official Website

Takayama Yatai Kaikan

10 October 2016

Event: Taiiku no Hi (Health and Sports Day)
National Holiday

Health and Sports Day is a National Holiday in Japan that is held annually on the second Monday of October. The day commemorates the opening of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. It is called “Taiku no Hi” in Japanese, and is a day to promote both sports and physical and mental health. A lot of schools in Japan hold their sports festivals on this day.

Health and Sports Day

22 October 2016

Event: Jidai Matsuri
Location: Kyoto
Time: 12:00 pm departure
Price of Admission: FREE

The Jidai Matsuri or ‘Festival of the Ages’ dates from 1895 and is held every year on October 22 in Kyoto. It features a large parade from Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace) to Heian Jingu Shrine. The participants of the festival are dressed in authentic costumes ranging from the 8th century (Heian Period) to the 19 century (Meiji Period), It is one of Kyoto’s three most famous festivals and celebrates the wonderful culture and history of this ancient city.

Official Website

Festivals and Events for October 2016 in Japan

Autumn Colors Forecast 2016 in Japan

Autumn Leaves Forecast

Autumn Colors Forecast 2016 in Japan

The viewing of autumn leaves is called koyo or momiji-gari in Japanese, and is a popular pastime in autumn. The fall season is one of the most beautiful seasons in Japan with great weather that is perfect for traveling. The autumn foliage season in Japan typically starts in mid-September in the northern mountains of Hokkaido, and slowly makes it way down south reaching Tokyo and Kyoto in mid to late November. You can even enjoy the fall foliage into December in many parts of Japan. All this means a season lasting nearly three months!

The green leaves of summer change to spectacular reds, oranges and yellows as the weather cools, and the koyo front makes it way south.

The autumn colors forecast each year varies depending on temperatures leading up to the season. This means the timing of the viewing of the autumn leaves can vary by a few days to a few weeks from year to year. The past few weeks has seen some unusually cold temperatures which has sped up the progress of the autumn colors in central Japan.

The autumn colors have reached their peak in Kamakura, which is located less than an hour south of Tokyo, and is called “The Kyoto of Eastern Japan”. They are now past their peak in many popular spots including Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Kanazawa.

The table below outlines some of the popular destinations in Japan for viewing the autumn leaves with the average estimated viewing time.

More information can be found at the official Koyo Guide in Japan.
http://kouyou.nihon-kankou.or.jp/en/

Autumn Colors Table (Updated 4 December 2016)

Autumn Colors Forecast 2016 in Japan

Gifu Park

Festivals and Events for September 2016 in Japan

Hida Takayama in Autumn

Festivals and Events for September 2016 in Japan

September in Japan is the start of autumn with the promise of cooler weather and pleasant temperatures ahead. The weather starts to cool down from mid to late September with the red, yellow and orange leaves of autumn starting in the colder regions of Japan. September is a good time to travel in Japan with clear skies and cooler mornings and evenings after the hot summer months. There are quite a few traditional cultural festivals happening around this time of the year.

Here are a few of the most popular September festivals and events in Japan.

11 May to 15 October 2016

Event: Gifu Ukai (Cormorant Fishing)
Location: Nagara River in Gifu City
Time: Starts from 7:30 pm
Price of Admission: A fee applies for the viewing boat

Cormorant Fishing or ukai in Japanese is a major summer attraction on the Nagara River in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Ukai is a traditional fishing method that uses trained cormorants to catch river fish. The art has been practiced along the Nagara River in Gifu for more than 1,300 years. It has a very long history in Japan and is mentioned in many ancient chronicles.

Cormorant Fishing in Gifu

9 July to 3 September 2016

Event: Gujo Bon Odori
Location: Gujo Hachiman
Time: 8 pm to 10:30 pm (11 pm on Saturdays)
Price of Admission: FREE

Gujo Bon Odori is one of Japan’s largest traditional folk dance festivals held at the picturesque riverside town of Gujo Hachiman in Gifu Prefecture. The festival is held from July 9 to September 3 as part of the Obon period in Japan, and is held to honour the spirits of ancestors. This amazing 400 year old summer tradition is held for a period of 32 nights from mid July to early September, climaxing with 4-nights of all-night dancing during Obon in the middle of August.

Official Website

11-25 September 2016

Event: Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament
Location: Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo

The Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament starts in Tokyo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan on Sunday September 11 and lasts until Sunday September 25. It is the fifth out of six tournaments held every year and lasts for 15 days. This year all eyes will be on Japanese sumo wrestlers, Takayasu and Takarafuji, who have been promoted to Sekiwake, sumo’s third highest rank. In the previous tournament in Nagoya,Takayasu captured the Technique Prize for the first time with a 11-4 record which included wins over three Ozeki. Takarafuji earned the Fighting Spirit Prize for the first time with a 10-5 record which included wins over Yokozuna Hakuho and two Ozeki.

Sumo Japan’s Traditional Sport

14-16 September 2016

Event: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Matsuri
Location: Kamakura
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Matsuri is a traditional festival full of ancient rituals and powerful performances held at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura. The festival features mikoshi portable shrines, a tea-offering ceremony to the gods and many traditional performances ranging from ancient samurai skills to dances of love. The highlight and main attraction of the festival is yabusame, a traditional form of Japanese archery done on horseback. It is a contest combining both equestrian skills and Japanese-style archery, which was popular among the samurai warriors.

Official Website

17-18 September 2016

Event: Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri
Location: Osaka
Time: Day 1 (6:00 am to 10:00 pm) Day 2 (9:00 am to 10:00 pm)
Price of Admission: FREE

The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is a fun high-octane festival held in Kishiwada in the south of Osaka. The festival is the biggest and most famous danjiri matsuri in Japan, and began in 1703 when the daimyo (feudal lord) of Kishiwada Castle prayed to the Shinto gods for an abundant harvest. The festival features 35 elaborately hand-carved danjiri festival floats which are pulled through the streets of Osaka at breakneck speeds. Each float is pulled by a team of up to 1,000 people and represent a different district of the city.

Official Website

19 September 2016

Event: Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Aged Day)
National Holiday

Respect for the Aged Day or Keiro no Hi in Japanese is a National Holiday held on the third Monday of September. It is a day in Japan to respect our elders and celebrate longevity. The holiday started in 1966 and can trace its origins to 1947 when Taka-cho in Hyogo Prefecture declared September 15 “Old Folks Day”. Its popularity spread nationwide and it become a national holiday in 1966.

22 September 2016

Event: Shubun no Hi (Autumn Equinox Day)
National Holiday

Autumn Equinox Day or Shubun no Hi in Japanese is a National Holiday on September 22. Autumn Equinox Day became a national holiday on 1948. It’s a day to mark the changing of the seasons in Japan and pay our respects to our deceased ancestors. Many memorial services take place at temples around Japan. People also visit the graves of their ancestors to offer rice cakes called ohagi, clean the tombstone, and offer incense and flowers.

Festivals and Events for September 2016 in Japan

Festivals and Events for August 2016 in Japan

Tanabata Star Festival

Festivals and Events for August 2016 in Japan

August in Japan is the middle of summer and is the peak summer festival season with festivals taking place all around Japan. The weather is hot, humid and sticky, but it’s a great time to head outdoors and enjoy the fun summer festivals. Many cities and towns across Japan hold their summer fireworks festivals in August, which are a must see event. This is one of the best times of year to be in Japan and experience a Japanese festival.

Here are a few of the most popular August festivals and events in Japan.

11 May to 15 October 2016

Event: Gifu Ukai (Cormorant Fishing)
Location: Nagara River in Gifu City
Time: Starts from 7:30 pm
Price of Admission: A fee applies for the viewing boats

Cormorant Fishing or ukai in Japanese is a major summer attraction on the Nagara River in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Ukai is a traditional fishing method that uses trained cormorants to catch river fish. The art has been practiced along the Nagara River in Gifu for more than 1,300 years. It has a very long history in Japan and is mentioned in many ancient chronicles.

Cormorant Fishing in Gifu

1 July to 31 August 2016

Event: Mount Fuji Climbing Season

Summer is the only time you can climb Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji. The official climbing season runs from July 1 to August 31 every year. It is a great time of the year to experience Japan’s biggest UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is easily accessible from Tokyo.

Official Website

9 July to 3 September 2016

Event: Gujo Bon Odori
Location: Gujo Hachiman
Time: 8 pm to 10:30 pm (11 pm on Saturdays)
Price of Admission: FREE

Gujo Bon Odori is one of Japan’s largest traditional folk dance festivals held at the picturesque riverside town of Gujo Hachiman in Gifu Prefecture. The festival is held from July 9 to September 3 as part of the Obon period in Japan, and is held to honour the spirits of ancestors. This amazing 400 year old summer tradition is held for a period of 32 nights from mid July to early September, climaxing with 4-nights of all-night dancing during Obon in the middle of August.

Official Website

2-7 August 2016

Event: Aomori Nebuta Matsuri
Location: Aomori
Time: 7:10 pm to 9:00 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri held in Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture which is situated at the northern tip of Honshu in the Tohoku region is one of the must see summer festivals in Japan. It is a colourful and spectacular summer festival featuring enormous illuminated lantern floats, covered with paper illustrated with famous historical or mythical Japanese characters. The floats are pulled through the city by teams of chanting dancers wearing a unique costume called haneto. The festival floats are constructed of painted washi paper over a bamboo frame and take an entire year to design and construct. Every night there is a daily parade which starts at sunset where the floats are wheeled out onto the streets of downtown Aomori. It is one of Japan’s most famous festivals and is one of the ‘Three Great Festivals of the Tohoku region of Japan’, called Tohoku Sandai Matsuri in Japanese.

Official Website

3-6 August 2016

Event: Akita Kanto Matsuri
Location: Akita
Time: 7:25 pm to 9:00 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Akita Kanto Matsuri is a spectacular summer festival held in Akita City, Akita Prefecture which is located in the Tohoku region of Japan. The Akita Kanto Matsuri is also known as the ‘pole lantern festival’ and features hundreds of giant bamboo poles each weighing 60 kg with dozens of paper lanterns attached to the end. The festival is held in hope for a good harvest as well as to keep away evil summer spirits. Participants skilfully balance the giant poles through the streets to the rhythm of taiko drums. It is also one of the ‘Three Great Festivals of the Tohoku region of Japan’, called Tohoku Sandai Matsuri in Japanese.

Official Website

6 August 2016

Event: The Nagara River National Display Fireworks Festival
Location: Gifu
Time: 7:00 pm to 8:45 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Nagara River National Display Fireworks are held on the first Saturday of August and follow on from the Chunichi Shimbun Gifu Fireworks the previous Saturday. Held along the banks of the famous Nagara River in Gifu City with Mount Kinka and Gifu Castle as a backdrop, the skies above the river are set ablaze with colour. There are many street stalls yatai selling all kinds of Japanese festival food as well as people in beautiful yukata (summer kimono).

Official Website

6-8 August 2016

Event: Sendai Tanabata Matsuri
Location: Sendai
Time: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm (August 6 and 7) and until 9:00 pm (August 8)
Price of Admission: FREE

The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri is regarded as the most famous and largest Tanabata festival in all of Japan. Held in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture which is located in the Tohoku region of Japan. The festival features colourful streamers and paper decorations such as kusudama ball of paper flowers made from Japanese washi paper. The decorations can be found in downtown Sendai and the neighbouring shopping arcades. It is also one of the ‘Three Great Festivals of the Tohoku region of Japan’, called Tohoku Sandai Matsuri in Japanese.

Official Website

11 August 2016

Event: Yama no Hi (Mountain Day)
National Holiday

Mountain Day, or Yama no Hi in Japanese is a National Holiday that is celebrated every August 11th. The holiday was created with the intention to give the hard-working Japanese a break from work while spending time in the mountains with family members and friends. Mountain Day will celebrate all things mountain-related in Japan, which is a nation whose culture is founded on nature-inspired Shintoism. To celebrate Mountain Day, Japanese people are encouraged to visit rural mountainous areas across Japan with Mount Fuji a popular destination. The inaugural National Ceremony for Mountain Day will be held in the Japan Alps at Kamikochi in Nagano.

12-15 August 2016

Event: Awa Odori Folk Dance Festival
Location: Tokushima
Time: Main Event from 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Awa Odori Folk Dance Festival is one of Japan’s largest and most famous dance festivals. It is held in the city of Tokushima in Tokushima Prefecture on the southern island of Shikoku. Men, women and children in yukata (summer kimono) and straw hats take to the streets to dance to the sounds of shamisen, taiko drums and flutes. The traditional bon folk dance which is called ‘Awa Odori’ is done to honour one’s ancestors in Japan during the Obon period of mid-August. The festival is one of the biggest and most entertaining festivals in Japan.

Official Website

16 August 2016

Event: Daimonji Gozan Okuribi
Location: Kyoto
Time: The bonfires start from 8:00 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Daimonji Gozan Okuribi or Daimonji Yaki is a must see summer festival in Kyoto during the Obon period in Japan. Huge bonfires in the shape of Chinese characters and other symbols are set alight on top of five mountains during Obon (festival of the dead) to bid farewell to the souls of our ancestors. The largest fire is always burned on Mount Daimonji, just above Ginkakuji Temple. It is one of Japan’s most impressive spectacles and a highlight of summer in Kyoto.

Festivals and Events for August 2016 in Japan

Ninja WiFi Rental Service in Japan

Festivals and Events for July 2016 in Japan

Tanabata Star Festival

Festivals and Events for July 2016 in Japan

July in Japan is the start of the summer festival season and is one of the best times to experience one of Japan’s many traditional festivals. There are quite a few traditional cultural festivals and events happening around this time of the year as well as spectacular summer fireworks festivals. July is one of the best times of the year to experience all that Japanese culture has to offer.

Here are a few of the most popular July festivals and events in Japan.

11 May to 15 October 2016

Event: Gifu Ukai (Cormorant Fishing)
Location: Nagara River in Gifu City
Time: Starts from 7:30 pm
Price of Admission: A fee applies for the viewing boats

Cormorant Fishing or ukai in Japanese is a major summer attraction on the Nagara River in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Ukai is a traditional fishing method that uses trained cormorants to catch river fish. The art has been practiced along the Nagara River in Gifu for more than 1,300 years. It has a very long history in Japan and is mentioned in many ancient chronicles.

Cormorant Fishing in Gifu

1 July to 31 August 2016

Event: Mount Fuji Climbing Season

Summer is the only time you can climb Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji. The official climbing season runs from July 1 to August 31 every year. It is a great time of the year to experience Japan’s biggest UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is easily accessible from Tokyo.

Official Website

1-15 July 2016

Event: Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival
Location: Fukuoka
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

The Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival is an exciting and high energy summer festival held in Hakata, Fukuoka. The festival is held from July 1 to 15 with the climax at Kushida Jinja Shrine on July 15. The festival is believed to have originated in the 13th Century and is now over 750 years old and attracts up to a million spectators every year. The festival features two kinds of festival floats, one called Kazariyama, which are colourful floats used for display purposes only, and Kakiyama, which are pulled through the streets of Hakata and feature in the climax of the festival.

Official Website

1-31 July 2016

Event: Gion Matsuri
Location: Kyoto
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

The Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is a month-long festival that is one of the most famous in Japan. The whole month of July is filled with fun festival activities and events ranging from processions and traditional performances to ancient ceremonies. The festival is held from July 1 to 31 with the main day of the festival being July 17 with a parade of over 30 floats through the streets of Kyoto. The festival floats are truly impressive at up to 25 meters tall and weighing up to 12 tonnes.

Official Website

7 July 2016

Event: Tanabata Star Festival
Location: All Over Japan

Tanabata also known as the “Star Festival” takes place every year on the 7th day of the 7th month. The Japanese festival has its origins in ancient Chinese legend, and celebrates the meeting of two stars identified with the lovers Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair), tragically separated by the Milky Way. The lovers are only allowed to meet one night of the year, which is Tanabata. It’s considered to be one of the most romantic nights of the year in Japan, and is a great time to be outdoors enjoying all that a Japanese summer festival has to offer.

The date of Tanabata varies depending on the region of Japan and is usually held at either July 7th or August 7th. The celebration is held at night and colourful Tanabata Festivals are held across Japan.

Read more about Tababata the Star Festival of Japan

9 July to 3 September 2016

Event: Gujo Bon Odori
Location: Gujo Hachiman
Time: 8 pm to 10:30 pm (11 pm on Saturdays)
Price of Admission: FREE

Gujo Bon Odori is one of Japan’s largest and most famous traditional folk dance festivals. Held every summer in the picturesque riverside town of Gujo Hachiman in Gifu Prefecture, the dance is one of the three most famous Bon dances in Japan, and easily its most accessible. This year the festival will be held from July 9 to September 3 as part of the Obon period in Japan. The highlight of the festival is the all-night dancing, or tetsuya odori, which takes place from dusk until dawn during the Obon season (a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors) in mid-August. The all-night dancing runs from August 13 to 16 each year.

Official Website

10-24 July 2016

Event: July Summer Grand Sumo Tournament
Location: Nagoya Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium

The July Summer Grand Sumo Tournament starts in Nagoya at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium on Sunday July 10. Japanese Ozeki, Kisenosato will take center stage as he launches his latest bid for an elusive first championship, and with it, promotion to sumo’s highest rank of Yokozuna (Grand Champion).

Sumo Japan’s Traditional Sport

14 July 2016

Event: Nachi no Hi Fire Festival
Location: Wakayama
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

The Nachi no Hi Fire Festival is held at the famous Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine in the World Heritage Kumano Mountains of Wakayama Prefecture. It is one of the three largest fire festivals in all of Japan. Portable shrines (mikoshi) designed in the image of the sacred Great Waterfall of Nachi are brought down from the mountain, and are met by groups bearing 50-kg flaming pine torches. It is one of the most spectacular festivals you will experience in Japan.

Official Website

18 July 2016

Event: Umi no Hi (Marine Day)
National Holiday

Umi no Hi or Marine Day is a Japanese National Holiday held on the third Monday of July. This year the holiday will be on July 18th. Umi no Hi was established to appreciate and celebrate the ocean and to consider the importance of the ocean to Japan as an island nation. Many people take advantage of this holiday and the beautiful summer weather to visit the beach.

22-24 July 2016

Event: Fuji Rock Festival
Location: Niigata

The Fuji Rock Festival is an annual summer rock festival held in the beautiful mountains of Niigata in central Japan. It attracts top international artists as well as Japan’s finest musicians for three days of music, fun and camping. This year’s lineup includes Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Sigur Ros, Stereophonics, Travis, and Jake Bugg.

Official Website

24-25 July 2016

Event: Tenjin Matsuri
Location: Osaka
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

The Tenjin Matsuri is held at Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka and is regarded as one of Japan’s three biggest festivals. The main celebrations are held on the second day with a procession through the streets of Osaka of portable shrines (mikoshi) with people dressed in traditional costumes. At night, there is a river procession with a huge fireworks display. The festival first started in the 10th century and is a one of the must see festivals in Japan.

Official Website

30 July 2016

Event: Sumidagawa Fireworks
Location: Tokyo
Time: 7:05 pm to 8:30 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Sumidagawa Fireworks is an annual fireworks festival held over the Sumida River in the historic Asakusa district of Tokyo. The festival is the world’s oldest firework show, tracing its origin back to the Edo Period in 1732. It is a taikai (competition) between rival pyrotechnic groups who try to out-do each other leading to a spectacular showcase of Japanese fireworks.

Official Website

30 July 2016

Event: Chunichi Shinbun Gifu Fireworks
Location: Gifu
Time: 7:15 pm to 8:45 pm
Price of Admission: FREE

The Chunichi Shinbun Gifu Fireworks is one of the largest and most spectacular fireworks displays in all of Japan. Held along the banks of the famous Nagara River in Gifu City with Mount Kinka and Gifu Castle as a backdrop, the skies above the river are set ablaze with colour.

Official Website

Festivals and Events for July 2016 in Japan