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Do the Cat Dance: A Growing Tradition Attracts 20,000 “Purrformers” (Japan in Photos)

Performers with feline ears and whiskers take part in a cat dance in Kannami, Shizuoka Prefecture on October 9, 2017. The celebration, based on a local legend, has been running for 30 years. The dance took place in the town’s central shopping area for the first time and drew an estimated 20,000 participants. (© Jiji)

Keeping Cool at the “Water-Splashing Festival” (Japan in Photos)

Participants carrying a portable shrine get drenched in Tokyo’s Fukagawa Hachiman Festival on August 13, 2017. The liberal dousing of teams with water by spectators is all part of the traditional summer fun at this event, also known as the mizukake matsuri (water-splashing festival). It continues until August 15. (© Jiji)

Flowers Bloom over Tokyo’s Sumida River (Japan in Photos)

Rain failed to dampen the excitement of the Sumida River Fireworks, Tokyo’s largest display, which took place on Saturday, July 29. Massive crowds gathered along the banks of the river watched as around 20,000 fireworks boomed, sparkled, and cascaded overhead. (© Jiji)

Golden Wishes for the Star Festival (Japan in Photos)

A bamboo branch laden with golden tanzaku decorates the interior of Ginza Tanaka, a seller of precious metal accessories in Tokyo’s Ginza district, on July 5, 2017. In the run-up to tanabata, the shop went a step further in observing the star festival tradition of wish making by providing customers gold-leafed strips of paper to write their hopes and dreams on. (© Jiji)

A Blazing Vernal Rite: Nara’s Tōdaiji Celebrates Omizutori Festival (Japan in Photos)

A time-lapse photo captures the course of monks as parishioners carry kagotaimatsu (pine torches) along the corridors of the Nigatsudō of Tōdaiji in Nara Prefecture in the late hours of March 12, 2017. The Omizutori, or “water-drawing” festival, is part of Shunie, a series of spring rites held each year from March 1–14. Sparks from the torches are thought to drive away malicious forces and ens…

An Ascetic Rite of Spring: The Nagatoro Fire Festival (Japan in Photos)

A monk traverses a river of flames during the Nagatoro Fire Festival on March 5 in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture. Adherents of mountain asceticism observed the religious rite of spring by chanting Buddhist scriptures while trudging barefoot across an eight-by-four-meter bed of blazing wood and red-hot coals. Spectators were allowed to participate after the fire died down, with a journey across …


Shichi-Go-San (literally “seven-five-three”) is a Japanese custom observed on November 15 in which five-year-old boys and three- and seven-year old girls visit shrines to pray for health and prosperity as they grow.

Halloween in Japan: Costumes, Candy, and . . . Star Wars?Nippon.com Staff

Japan has its fair share of annual observances and festivals, but as a country that loves a good matsuri, it is always open to the idea of importing new ones. A case in point is Halloween. While this spooky autumn festival with European roots once made its mark only in certain pockets of Japan home to concentrated foreign populations, like areas near military bases and expat-heavy neighborhoods in…

“Tanabata” (Star Festival)

According to legend, each July 7 the weaver star and cowherder star traverse the Milky Way to renew their ancient bond of love. In Japan, the lovers are celebrated with lively decorations and wishes written on long, narrow strips of colored paper. Observed throughout the country, many cities, including Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture, have become famous for hosting elaborate celebrations.

Festival of Friendship and Fortitude: Photohoku Brings Emotional Relief to Fukushima PrefectureDavid McMahon

A 50-meter-long nagashi sōmen stand was one of the many attractions at the festival. (© Miseon Park) It is perfect weather for a matsuri, and the air in the small coastal town of Shinchi, Fukushima, is abuzz with the hubbub of children frolicking and old folks gossiping. School dance teams and other performers entertain the crowds from a modest stage, and refreshment stalls offering local produc…

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