It may not be Christmas, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of events this December in Japan! Attend traditional festivals, run a marathon and enjoy the illuminations before you ring in the New Year!
Ramen Expo 2017 | Dec 1st – 25th | Osaka
Slurp on your favorite ramen each weekend through December and travel Japan with your taste buds. There will be over 40 stalls set up with a variety of ramen from across the country for you to try out. The festival takes place over the 4 weekends, including Fridays with a different group of ramen offerings available each time. Entry is free and you can buy tickets to swap for bowls of ramen.
Naha Marathon | Dec 3rd | Okinawa
If you’re in Okinawa and enjoy seeing people run by, the Naha marathon is for you. As one of Japan’s premier long-distance road races it was established in 1985 as a celebration between Naha and Honolulu. It draws crowds of over 25,000 people and the route is lined with taiko drummers, eisa dancers and well-wishers who will keep up the motivation of the runners. so there’s plenty to see.
Kasuga Wakamiya | Dec 15th – 18th | Nara
With an origin traced back to the 12th century, this traditional festival takes place in the at Wakamiya shrine within the larger Kasuga Taisha Shrine. The highlight is the Jidai Gyoretsu, a period procession that takes place on the afternoon of the third day with 500 people processing dressed in traditional clothing from the Heian period to the Edo period.
Okera Mairi: Old Year’s Eve | Dec 31st – 1st Jan | Kyoto
If your keen to achieve peace and prosperity for 2018 (and don’t we all need some) then attend the traditional Okera Mairi ceremony in the Yasaka Jinja. Roots of Okera are burned and torches are lit using their flames from which people rush to light bamboo rope which they carry home to light a candle on the family altar or on a cooking stove. The event begins at 7pm on 31st with an earlier ceremony taking place to purify sins.
Saga Light Fantasy | Oct 31st – 8th Jan | Saga
One of the longest running illuminations each year, the Saga Light Fantasy is a trail of beautiful designs starting at Saga Station. There are over 1.8 million LED bulbs to be switched on between 5pm and midnight.
Iwaki Hikari no Sakura | Dec 2nd – Jan 8th | Fukushima
Bringing spring to winter, these illuminations have a theme of cherry blossom and use thousands of pink LEDs to create a cherry-blossom wonderland on the streets of Iwaki.
Arashiyama Hanatouro Lighting | Dec 8th – 17th | Kyoto
Explore the beautiful area of Arashiyama as it’s lit for the winter illuminations this year. Temples and shrines will be open during the evenings and this will be an amazing chance to see them at their most beautiful. The path includes the Togetsu-kyo bridge, Tenryu-ji and Horin-ji temples as well as the famous Sagano Bamboo Forest and will be open from 5pm to 8:30pm
Kobe Luminarie | Dec 8th – 17th | Kobe
One of the most famous illuminations in Japan and is held in memory of the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. Head to Motomachi Station to see the bright lights in their 21st year.
Sendai Pageant of Starlight | Dec 8th – 31st | Sendai
Worldwide Eisa Festival – Okinawa
Eisa is one of Okinawa’s most important cultural expressions and is celebrated in a large competition with competitors from all over the island. There are performances and workshops if you want to try it yourself. There are three categories and the dance is performed in a spirit of prayer, emotion and friendship.