Festivals and events are huge and extremely popular in Japan. Every area has it’s own scheduled festivals, with themes like ice sculpting, fireworks and fertility depending on the customs of the area. A Japanese festival usually consists of two things; the main attraction, for example the fireworks or a parade, and small stands selling “festival food”, having small games or selling other things that might interest those attending.
So what is festival food?
Festival food in Japan is takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (thick pancake often with meat in it), yakisoba (fried noodles), yakitori (grilled chicken), mochi (rice dough) and many more interesting dishes. The festival food is served in a way that you can eat it while walking around or at least in the premise.
All these kind of events are filled with children and couples as they are a very attractive dating spot. Some Japanese people goes to these events wearing kimonos and yukatas which are two types of Japanese traditional clothing. Wearing these kind of clothes seems to have become less and less popular because they are expensive, hard to put on and especially Tokyo has gradually become more westernized and therefore sometimes making it look like going that far might be overdoing it a bit. Festivals are usually held annually and can sometimes be for several days in a row.
Some festivals have parades of small shrines being carried around by people in only underwear. This photo was taken in Asakusa where they have one of these parades every year. It is in the middle of Tokyo though so the amount of attendees might make it a bit cramped in the streets. These parades are often accompanied by people playing instruments and screaming, read singing, unrecognisable words in Japanese. There are some places that let attendees volunteer to carry around the shrines if they get properly dressed and follow the instructions at the site. The parades and festivals are often held by the local shrines of each area and are in a way a religious act. The parades are often in order to welcome the gods of the shrines they carry around.
Festivals aren’t the only form of entertainment to be had in Japan. Some popular places to seek out to have fun are karaoke, theme/amusement parks, game centers and many more.
Karaokes in Japan does not refer to karaoke bars, unless people explicitly say that. Instead the usual karaoke in Japan is a place where you pay money for renting a small room equipped with a karaoke machine and other extra services during your visit there. Usually the price is paid per hour and costs about 500yen an hour per person. Basically you have a private singing party with your friends. Even if you dislike usual karaoke bars I suggest you try it out.
There are a lot of theme parks and amusement parks in Japan. They have two Disney parks (Disneyland and Disney Sea, beside each other), Universal Studios, Fujikyu Highland and lots and lots of small ones scattered everywhere. They have efficient systems for a lot of customers coming in at the same time and if you plan properly you can have fun even when the parks are filled to the brim with people.
Game centers are arcades with money-betting games, claw machines and video game machines in the same building. They are scattered all over big cities, especially Tokyo. It is popular to go in these game centers with your friends if you happen to pass by one, but some people even put them in as part of a date. In Japan, these kind of game centers have always been quite popular since they started and because of that they usually have quite newly-made, advanced games even in the video game section. There are games that you only can play in arcade halls and the most popular ones are often music games like “Taiko no Tatsujin,” a taiko drum game.
Even when there is no festival around, in some tourist heavy areas they have these festival stands up anyways during high season. There will be a surge of people and long lines for them though so be prepared to wait to get those takoyakis you desire.
There are loads of other events in Japan too. There are events at different amusement parks and there are events to celebrate the opening of big stores just two name two out of many. So when travelling around in Japan it can be a good idea to look up events close to where you are going so you don’t miss out on something.
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