Snow, fire and even plum blossoms mean there’s plenty to see this month in Japan. The festivals are a pick-and-mix of purification rituals and playful family events, with seasonal celebrations thrown in.

February is a month filled with winter wonderlands in the form of Japanese festivals celebrating winter, oysters, and demons. If it’s the snow festivals you’re after in particular, check our extra article here!

For events in Tokyo and the surrounding area, please visit our listings on Tokyo Cheapo.

Kansai events

These are events in Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, Mie, and the surrounding areas.

Suggested Activity
Book Yourself a Room on Wheels with DreamDrive
Travel in comfort, avoid crowds and public transport, and experience Japan's natural wonders in a beautifully appointed camper van from DreamDrive, for as little as JPY12,900/day.

Yasaka Shrine Setsubun

Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine
Photo by iStock.com/evergreenplanet

A great chance to see the maiko and geiko (geisha of Kyoto) without forking out terrifying amounts, this Setsubun ceremony is pretty special. The first day features dancing and bean-throwing while the second has a lion dance too.

Heian Jingu Setsubun

This is one of the most well-known Setsubun celebrations in Kyoto and offers a cleansing ritual, an exorcism performance complete with evil oni (demons) and even maiko and geiko (the geisha of Kyoto) who throw beans into the crowd. The day ends with a fire ceremony, and while it will no doubt be busy, it’s worth the crowds.

Baikasai Plum Blossom Festival

Red plum blossoms. | Photo by Getty Images

A sign of the start of spring, the plum blossom transforms the already impressive Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine into a seasonal treat. While the blossom will obviously be around for a week or two, the festival day features a tea ceremony with apprentice geiko (Kyoto’s geisha) called maiko, but tickets are limited, so be there on time.

Dojima Yakushido Setsubun Omizukumi Festival

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.

Hirosaki Castle Snow-Lantern Festival

Hirosaki castle snow festival
Photo by Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization

Decorating the already-impressive castle with over 200 lanterns, this event is perfect for a relaxing evening stroll in the snow (if there is such a thing). There will be snow scultpures and performances during the day as well as a kid-only snow slide (dissapointing, we know).

Ichiya Kannyo Festival

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

Traditionally known as the month of the tiger, it’s no surprise February has a whole festival centered around the striped beast. Between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., 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.

Kantō events

These are events in Ibaraki, Tochigi, and other areas surrounding Tokyo.

Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival

A snowy wonderland appears each winter in this quiet hot spring town as hundreds of small snow-houses are built. Illuminated on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings for the one month duration of the event, the kamakura (igloo) are a beautiful sight, and a barbecue inside one can even be arranged.

Hokkaidō events

These are events in Sapporo, Hakodate, and all the chilly areas on Japan’s northernmost island.

Sapporo Snow Festival

japan events february
Photo by iStock.com/mu_mu_

One of Japan’s most famous festivals, the Sapporo Snow Festival spans six 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!

Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival

Christmas Ice Sculpture
Christmas Ice Sculpture | Photo by iStock.com/Dobrydnev

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!

Tōhoku events

These are events in Fukushima, Sendai, and the surrounding areas.

Zao Snow Monster Festival

Zao Snow Monsters with cable car
Zao Snow Monsters. | Photo by iStock.com/kororokerokero

This is a chance to see the most unusual natural snow creations of the season. The monsters of Miyagi are illuminated every day and there will also be a parade of professionals and familiar characters skiing with LED lights.

Lake Towada Winter Story of Light

Lake Towada with milky way , Towada Hachimantai National Park Aomori, Japan. | Photo by iStock.com/vichie81

A winter wonderland appears beside the shores of Lake Towada for around three weeks every February. There is a short fireworks display (about 10 minutes) each night from 7:30 p.m. as well as illuminations.

Iwate Snow Festival

Iwate snow festival Koiwai Farm
Photo by iStock.com/gyro

Another smaller, more local snow festival when compred to the Sapporo one, this event is one of the largest in Tohoku. There are tasy local dishes to try like milk ramen and amazake (a sweet drink made from rice, served hot) as well as sledding, scultpures and nearby onsen to enjoy.

Tadami Snow Festival

Ice Sculpture
Photo by iStock/norbiy

A very small town with a reputation for its annual snow festival, Tadami certainly knows how to make the most of the seasonal weather. A great local alternative to the giant Sapporo Snow festival, this one has scultpures, carvings and taiko performances as well as firework displays.

Kamihinokinai Paper Balloon Festival

An annual event with a long but unclear history, this festival sees dozens of large paper balloons released into the sky. Decorated with traditional designs and the larger balloons are truly amazing, while smaller ones are covered in wishes by locals and visitors.

Kasedori Festival

Photo by Yamagata Prefecture

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.

Namahage Sedo Festival

Photo by Akita Prefecture Tourism Promotion Division

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.

Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival

Yokote Snow Festival (Kamakura)
Photo by Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization

Highlighting the traditional snow structures called kamakura, which are like snow igloos (not ice) and house candles and sometimes people, this festival is pretty magical. Held for over 400 years, this festival has perfected the art of kamakura, and each has a small altar with rice and winer offerings to the Gods.

Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival

Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival
Photo by Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization

200 snow lanterns and around 1000 snow caves are lit up in Matsugasaki Park in Yamagata Prefecture. The light display is different from your usual yellow glowing lanterns and will include different shapes and bright colors. There will be plenty of food stalls and stage performances, including musical acts and mascots.

Hiroshima events

These are events in Hiroshima, Okayama, Tottori, Yamaguchi, and surrounding areas.

Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Festival

Photo by ©Okayama Prefectural Tourism Federation

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.

Chūbu events

These are events in Nagano, Aichi, Fukui, and surrounding areas.

Katsuyama Sagicho Matsuri

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.

Souriike Plum Blossom Festival

Souriike is a large pond in Chita City, Aichi Prefecture. On the edge the pond is Souri-midoritohana-no-fureai Park, home to 5,100 individual plum trees and 25 different varieties. The best time to go is from mid-February until mid-March.

Get the best Japan Cheapo hacks direct to your inbox