February is a month filled with winter wonderlands in the form of Japanese festivals to celebrate snow, oysters, demons and Chinese New Year! If it’s the snow festivals you’re after in particular, check our extra article here!
Kujuku Islands Oyster Eating Festivals | Feb 3rd – 25th | Nagasaki
Set up shop at any of the 400 grills and enjoy all the oysters you could ever hope to eat before collapsing on one of the 1,600 seats. The event will be held on the grassy square at 99 Islands Pearl Sea Resort in Sasebo. You can buy your oysters fresh and grill them yourself if you feel like getting involved as everything you need, from charcoal to oyster knives will be available!
Dojima Yakushido Setsubun Omizukumi Festival | Feb 3rd | Osaka
An annual celebration of the arrival of spring, this is an age-old ceremony held across Japan to drive evil spirits from the house. It’s common to see people dressed as demons being herded from homes and businesses by occupants throwing beans. At this event, traditional prayer sticks are thrown into the fire in a Goma-daki ceremony.
Sapporo Snow Festival | Feb 5th – 11th | Hokkaido
One of Japan’s most famous festivals, the Sapporo snow festival spans across 6 days and is filled with food, snow and sculptures. Huge creations are carefully crafted in Odori Park from international and Japanese sculptors and you can find a huge selection of food trucks with warming food and drink to keep you going. There are multiple sights to explore and we have a guide on enjoying the festival here!
Namahage Sedo Festival | Feb 9th – 11th | Akita
One of the more sinister-looking festivals, the Namahage Sedo Festival involves demons, bonfires and a whole load of screaming children. The festivals are terrifying to say the least and if you’re in town, be sure to go to the Nahagekan Museum to see a variety of the costumes used.
Miyajima Oyster Festival | Feb 10th – 11th | Hiroshima
Famed for its oyster supply, Hiroshima celebrates this oyster fest every year with increasing popularity. Although oysters are often prohibitively expensive, here they’ll set you back a mere ¥100 a piece so you can gorge to your heart’s and stomach’s content. There will be stage performances of taiko drumming to keep you entertained too!
The Hakodate Russian Festival | Feb 10th | Hokkaido
Celebrating their Russian connections, Hakodate holds an annual festival involving Maslenitsa—a Russian Orthodox celebration similar to the start of lent. There will be a Russian cafe to try the language and a chess session too. You’ll find the festival at the Russian Far East Federal University, Hakodate Campus.
Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival | Feb 10th – 12th | Hokkaido
Deep in the snowdrifts of Northern Hokkaido, this snow festival has towering sculptures which are tastefully illuminated at night. There are family games, a warming selection of food and drink stalls to choose from and plenty of creations to pose with, just dress up warm!
Kasedori Festival | Feb 11th | Yamagata
Another of the more unusual festivals, this one involves local men dressed in straw coats (the festival’s namesake) pretending to be birds. The tradition originated in the 17th century and begins in front of the Kaminoyama Castle. The dancing straw men are doused in cold water and are gradually herded into the city for some warming sake.
Chinese New Year Festivities | Feb 16th – 18th | Hyogo
As one of the primary Chinatowns in Japan, Kobe city hosts a great Chinese New Year Celebration and is well-equipped for food, shopping and celebratory parades too. The event features plenty of lanterns, a lion dance, martial arts demonstrations and dragon parade as well as stalls selling traditional Chinese food and good luck charms.
Nagasaki Lantern Festival | Feb 16th – March 2nd | Nagasaki
One of the best times to see the city of Nagasaki, this festival sees 15,ooo lanterns adorn the streets to celebrate Chinese New Year. There are multiple venues across the city but Chuo and Minato Park are the main ones to visit. There are fireworks to go with the lanterns as well as dragon dances, kokyu performances, and Emperor’s parade and a princess procession!
Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Festival | Feb 17th | Okayama
Another of the famed naked festivals of Japan, this event has a history going back 500 years—so you can be sure the nakedness is cultural. Watch over 9,000 participants compete to catch the two lucky sticks called shingi as well as bundled willow strips thrown to the crowds by priests. There is a primary-school-aged version from 6pm for the kids.
Ichiya Kannyo (one night) Festival | Feb 20th | Osaka
Held on February 20th each year without fail, this festival celebrates the women and girls who sacrificed themselves to save the city from the disasters of the Yodo River. Maintaining the traditional styles of the time, the parades involve ancient costumes and are a real sight to behold. The festival has been designated an Intangible Folk Cultural Asset of Osaka Prefecture.
Shigisan Tiger Festival | Feb 24th – 25th | Nara
Traditionally known as the month of the tiger, it’s no surprise February has a whole festival centered around the striped beast. Between 11am – 12.30pm, 50 tiger boys and girls parade with tiger shrines accompanied by traditional taiko drumming and Japanese instruments. The children are all born in the year of the tiger, lending them their rightful roles.
Katsuyama Sagicho Matsuri | Feb 25th – 26th | Fukui
Centred around the traditional Dondo-yaki ceremony held in the New Year, this festival takes place on the banks of the Kuzuryu River. New years ornaments are burned while local artists perform on elevated wooden stages that are carried around the city. The traditional fire festival has been held for the last 300 years and always draws large crowds.