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, seasonal celebrations, and playful family events.

February is a month filled with winter wonderlands and locals are celebrating snow, oysters, and saying goodbye to fiery demons. If it’s the snow festivals you’re after, see our article on the best winter festivals of Japan.

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

Suggested Activity
Adventure out to Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)
Give yourself the James Bond experience with a visit to the movie-famous Battleship Island, just off the coast of Nagasaki. Once home to over 5000 people, it's now an abandoned ruin and visitors are finally allowed to explore.

Kansai events

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

Saikū Takigi Noh play with commentary in English

Enjoy the art of traditional Noh theater and learn about the history of the Saikū Palace in Mie. This play, Ema, is dedicated to the local Saikū Palace, which was once the home of a holy princess called Saiō, who worshipped the sun goddess Amaterasu.

Yasaka Shrine Setsubun

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.

Kayabuki no Sato Snow Lantern Festival

This yukitouro (snow candle path) in Miyama Village awes thousands of visitors with stunning scenes of snow-covered thatched roofs, lit with hundreds of lanterns.

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

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 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 sculptures and performances during the day, as well as a kid-only snow slide (disappointing, we know).

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. 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.

Osaka Marathon

The Osaka Marathon lets you see the city with a different atmosphere. One filled with cheering, sweating, and a winter’s glow. There will also be an Osaka Marathon EXPO on the 23rd and 24th.

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 dedicated guide to enjoying the Sapporo Snow Festival.

Noboribetsu Onsen “Naked Man” Festival

Officially called the Noboribetsu Onsen Hot Water Festival (Noboribetsu onsen yu matsuri), this unique festival takes place at the coldest time of year, when the last thing you want to be is naked (well, semi-naked) while running around at night and throwing water at each other.

Otaru Snow Light Path Festival

Timed to coincide with Sapporo’s giant winter festival, Otaru’s Snow Light Path (Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi — the awkward name is a direct translation) is on a much more intimate scale.

Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival

Deep in the snowdrifts of northern Hokkaido, this snow festival has towering sculptures that 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.

Zaō Snow Monster Festival

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

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.

Tadami Snow Festival

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 sculptures, carvings, and taiko performances, as well as fireworks.

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, the larger balloons are truly amazing, while the smaller ones are covered in wishes by locals and visitors.

Kasedori Festival

Another of the more unusual Japanese winter 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. It 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

The Namahage Sedo Festival involves demons, bonfires, and a whole load of screaming children. The festival is 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 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 wine offerings to the gods.

Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival

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.

Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival

Kawazu cherry blossoms (also known as Kawazu-zakura) are early-blooming sakura that make their appearance around a month earlier than the more common Somei Yoshino cherry blossom variety.

Katsuyama Sagicho Matsuri

Centered around the traditional Dondo-yaki ceremony held in the New Year, this festival takes place on the banks of the Kuzuryu River. New Year’s 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 of 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.

Kyūshū & Okinawa events

Kujuku Islands Oyster Eating Festival

The big grass square at the 99 Islands Pearl Sea Resort in Sasebo plays host to a festival of oysters on weekends and public holidays throughout February (and on the first Sunday of March this year).

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in January 2018. Last updated on January 25, 2024.

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