January gets a bad reputation for being the month of winter blues and post-Christmas lulls. But if these events are anything to go by, we’d have to disagree; who doesn’t like half-naked men, bonfire after bonfire, and fireworks?

We have compiled a great list of events all over Japan, so no matter where you are during your trip, you’ll have plenty to do. 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.

Kyoto Toka Ebisu Festival

This five-day celebration of the God of Prosperity involves plenty of lucky bamboo grass and charms which are bought in hopes of better luck for the coming year. At Ebisu Shrine in Gion there are geisha handing out lucky grass, shrine maidens performing purifying rituals and plenty of food stalls and ceremonies to enjoy.

Suggested Activity
Go on a Breakfast Tour of Nishiki Market in Kyoto
Start your day the right way -- with a delicious brunch in "Kyoto's kitchen", also known as Nishiki Market. The market has a long history, going back more than 400 years. Highlights Sample a variety of Kyoto specialties Shop like you live here Visit a shrine that's popular among local residents Before chowing down, your guide will take you for ...

Wakakusa Yamayaki

One of the most impressive sights in Kansai, the Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival sees an entire mountainside burned along with bonfires and fireworks. Origins for the festival range from tricky land disputes to efforts at boar-removal and even ghost-frightening, but whatever the cause, the festival is a fantastic experience.

Kayabuki no Sato Snow Lantern Festival

Photo by KYOTO MIYAMA TOURISM ASSOCIATION

Miyama Village awes thousands of visitors every year with stunning scenes of snow-covered thatched roofs lit with hundreds of lanterns. There will be snow lanterns, Japanese lanterns, flower lanterns, and LED lanterns, all lit at once to bathe the quiet town in a beautiful winter glow. Eighteen of the town’s thatched houses will also be illuminated, creating some beautiful scenes.

Oni Hashiri

oni hashiri japanese festival
Photo by Provided by the Gojo City Board of Education

What could be better than ogres with flaming torches? Not much! So head down to Nara for an unusual festival that scares away evil spirits from the temple hall with drums, trumpets, and bells. The festival has a history dating back over 500 years and is considered a national cultural event of historical importance. If the ogres successfully scare away the demons in time, there will be good fortune for the year.

Hokkaidō events

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

Sapporo White Illumination

This winter light-up takes place at five different locations including Odori Park, Sapporo Eki-mae Dori, and Minami 1-Jo Dori. All locations switch on the lights on November 22, but while Odori Park and the Munich Christmas Market finish on Christmas Day, the Eki-mae Dori venue continues until Feb 12, and the remaining venues end on March 14.

Tōhoku events

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

Dontosai Festival

Osaki Hachimangu Shrine Dontosai Festival
Photo by Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization

The Dontosai Festival is a fiery event in the heart of Miyagi. Festival goers burn their old New Year’s decorations in a large bonfire at Osaki Hachimangu Shrine in Sendai. After that half-naked men will brave the cold wearing loin cloths (but more likely shorts) and wraps. They will join a procession known as the hadaka-mairi (naked pilgrimage).

Zao Snow Monster Festival

Zao snow monster illumination festival
Photo by iStock.com/gyro

With incredible views from the ropeway and plenty of skiing opportunities, you can get your monster fix pretty easily in Yamagata. Kicking off at the end of December, you’ll also be able to go on special night snowmobile tours to see the snow monsters of Zao.

Chūbu (Nagano) events

Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival

One of the three greatest fire festivals in Japan, the Nozawa Fire Festival takes place on the 15th of January every year. Men from the village who are aged either 25 or 42 have the responsibility of defending the tower erected in the center as villagers rush to burn it in the night. The younger men fight them at the base while the older men defend from the top. Eventually the tower is burned and it is a truly spectacular sight.

Shirakawago Winter Light-Up 2023

shirakawago tokyo gifu japan
Photo by iStock.com/mantaphoto

Shirakawago is a picturesque village in Gifu Prefecture. It is known for its traditional, triangle-shaped houses known as gasshō-zukuri. This light-up event sees the quaint village come alive with light in the evenings and is very popular, so much in fact that this year you will need reservations.

Hiroshima events

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

Miyajima Weekend Fireworks

In order to celebrate to completion of the Itsukushima Shrine restoration, there will be fireworks shot into the sky almost every Saturday in January on Miyajima. This was a welcome announcement since the indefinite cancellation of the Miyajima Underwater Fireworks in 2021.

Kyūshū & Okinawa events

These are events in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Okinawa and the surrounding islands and areas.

Nagasaki Lantern Festival 2023

Nagasaki lantern festival
Photo by iStock.com/yuhorakushin

The Nagasaki Lantern Festival will be held for the first time in three years! Featuring more than 15,000 lanterns, the festival originally started as a simple Chinese New Year celebration. Along with a display of lanterns, the festival includes fireworks, Chinese acrobatics, lion dances, dragon dances, Chinese theatre, kokyu performances, an Emperor’s parade, a Mazu (goddess) procession, and a ‘campaign lady’ (beauty) contest.

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