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|Holidays and Festivals
holidays | festivals
|There are a great many festivals, or matsuri, celebrated throughout the year. The following is a small list of the thousands celebrated throughout Shiga and the surrounding areas. Please note: Dates vary from year to year; it is best to double check the accuracy of the dates given below.
|August 1 HIKONE
For fireworks this is the place to be. The fireworks explode over the castle and reflect in the moats. Starts around dusk. 10-15 minute walk from JR Hikone Station, Biwako Line/Omi-tetsudo Line.
August 5 NAGAHAMA
Nagahama and Hikone alternate yearly which city has the largest fireworks display. Odd years are Hikone, even years, Nagahama. Starts around dusk, at Nagahama Harbor. 5 minute walk from JR Nagahama Station, Hokuriku Line/some trains on the Biwako Line.
August 8 Otsu
This is the king of all fireworks displays in Shiga. Fireworks over Lake Biwa from Otsu Port. Get there early with a blanket and snacks for best viewing. Be prepared for a huge crowd. Starts around dusk. 15 minute walk from JR Otsu Station, Biwako Line, down to the lake, or a short walk from Hama Otsu Station, Keihan Line.
There are several other smaller fireworks displays in August throughout Shiga. Check with someone from your town to find out if and when there will be one in your area.
| August 14-16 ALL ACROSS SHIGA
In celebration of Obon, temples all over Shiga will be lit up with hanging lanterns. There will also be many performances of the famous Bon dance. Check your local area for dates and times.
August 14-16 KYOTO
To celebrate Obon, Kyoto will light the mountains on fire! Five kanji characters and designs are ignited in special patches of the mountains surrounding Kyoto. In addition, lanterns will be lit and sent down the rivers. Ask a friend or check with the newspaper for times and best viewing locations. Rooftops are great if you can find some room. Starts at dusk. Bus or walk from Kyoto Sation.
August 14-16 NARA
Yet another spectacular Obon celebration! Hundreds of lanterns are hung throughout Nara's temples in celebration for the dead. Train from Kyoto to Nara Station.
August 25-26 KINOMOTO
Festival at Joshinji Temple in honor of the three Jizo statues. Sample a variety of traditional foods on sale from stalls at the festival. a short walk from JR Kinomoto Station, Hokuriku Line.
|September 1 HINO
A festival for encouraging a plentiful harvest. Farmers in western and eastern areas grow a special potato and compare their lengths. The longer of the two is expected to have a good harvest, the shorter a poor one. Gather at Kumano Jinja at around 13:30 and then go to Mt. Nogami for the competition at 14:00. 10 minute taxi ride from Hino Station, Omi-tetsudo Line.
September 1-2 HIEIZAN, OTSU
Minarukane Taisai at Mudoji
People visit the temple from midnight on September 1 to early morning on September 2, to wish for good luck and prosperity. Starts at midnight. Cable car from Keihan Sakamoto Station.
Early September KUMOI
Taiko Odori at Hikumo Jinja
Dancing, wadaiko drumming, singing and praying for rain and a good harvest. Starts at around 19:30. At JR Kibukawa Station, Kusatsu Line, change to Shigaraki Kogen Tetsudo for Kumoi Station.
|First Saturday in September KUSATSU
Dengaku Odori at Hiyoshi Jinja
People wearing flower hats and shortcoats dance around a big bon fire to the sound of traditional drum music. Starts around 19:30. Take a bus from JR Kusatsu Station, Biwako Line, bound for Hiyoshi Jinja.
Ryusei at Yakushido
People set off gunpowder signals one used by ninja. Runs from around 18:30-20:00. 15 minute walk from JR Konan Station, Kusatsu Line.
September 13 ABURAHI
Omiya Go Mori at Aburahi Jinja
A festival dedicated to the god of oil. People burn "sacred fire" on this occasion for oil merchants to gather. Runs from 17:00-midnight. JR Aburahi Station, Kusatsu Line.
|October, Full Moon ISHIYAMA
Harvest Moon viewing at Ishiyama and Murasaki Shikibu Matsuri
Heian period dances and koto music performed by local residents. Starts at around 18:00. 10 minute walk from Ishiyamadera Station, Keihan Line, or a bus to Sanmon Mae from JR Ishiyama Station Biwako Line.
Early October NAGAHAMA
Shusse Matsuri and Kimono Festival
Begins with an arts and crafts show set up on the historic brick-paved streets of kurokabe, and ends with 2000 or so kimono clad women strolling to Daitsuji temple for an award ceremony at around 13:00. The festival runs daily from around 9:00-16:00. An excellent opportunity for photos. 5 minute walk from JR Nagahama Station, Hokuriku Line and many trains from the Biwako Line.
October 8 KATATA
Nogami Matsuri at Nogami Jinja
A rather unusual festival dating back to the Edo period. Locals carry lit torches and rouse certain community members out of bed with shouts of "kaji da!" (There's a fire!). After assurances that this is not the case, an offering to the god of the shrine is made in hopes of averting any real fires in the future. Starts around mid-morning. 30 minute walk from JR Katata Station, Kosei Line.
|October 9-10 OTSU
Otsu Matsuri at Tenson Jinja
On October 9, lanterns are placed on thrirteen floats decorated with brocade and mechanical dolls (karakuri ningyo) while flute and drum music is played. Starts at about 18:00. On October 10, the day begins with a Shinto ceremony, followed by a parade of the decorated floats. Starts at around 8:30. Near JR Otsu Station, Biwako Line, very close to Kencho.
October 10 MAIBARA
Hikiyama Matsuri at Utani Jinja
A great wooden float carrying boys performing kabuki is pulled through the city streets. Starts in the early morning. A short walk from JR Maibara Station, Biwako Line/Hokuriku Line.
October 14 YASU
Zuiki Matsuri at Mikami Jinja
A parade of five floats decorated with vegetables (zuiki). Following the parade, the floats are displayed in the front of the main hall for the rest of the day. From around 10:00 or 11:00. 10 minute bus ride from JR Yasu Station, Biwako Line.
Hikone-jo Oshiro Matsuri
Ninja performances twice daily. Festivities at Gokoku Jinja on October 31. Parade on November 3 includes drum and flute troops, rifle corps, 100 children dressed in kimono and others dressed as samurai and lords of the daimyo. 15 minute walk from JR Hikone Station, Biwako Line/Omi Tetsudo Line.
|Early November TSUCHIYAMA
Open to all athletes in Shiga! This marathon, half (21.5 km) or full (42.2 km), goes by picturesque mountains, rivers and tea fields. Take a bus from JR Mikumo Station, Kusatsu Line.
November 2-3 KORA
Maple Festival at Saimyoji
One of three Kotosanzen temples. Take a taxi from JR Kawase Station, Biwako Line, or from Amago Station, Omi Tetsudo Line.
Festival held in celebration of the changing colors of the maple leaves at Eigenji Temple. Omi Tetsudo Line to Yokaichi Station, and then a bus to Eigenji.
|November 23 TAGA
Hokenko Shuki Taisai at Taga Taisha
Harvest thanksgiving festival. Starts around 11:00. 20 minute walk from Taga Station, Omi Tetsudo Line, or a bus from JR Minami Hikone Station, Biwako Line.
November 23 KAMIGASA, KUSATSU
Local people dance and pray for rain and a rich harvest. Starts around 13:00. Bus from JR Kusatsu Station, Biwako Line, to Kamigasa Yubinkyoku-mae.
|December 8 TAROBO, YOKAICHI
Ohitaki Taisai at Tarobu-gu
Also known as the Talisman festival, this is one of the largest religious fire festivals in Japan. 300,000 peices of holy wood are burned for a two hour period. When the fire dies down, people walk on the embers for purity and good health. Starts at around 10:00. 20 minute walk from Tarobo Station, Omi Tetsudo Line. Look for the stone torii gate.
|December 31 ALL ACROSS SHIGA
Shrines and temples all over Shiga will be holding special ceremonies in celebration of the close of the old year and the comming of the new. Oshogatsu is a very festive holiday in Japan. Ask around to find out what happens in your area.
|January 8 ICHINOBE, YOKAICHI
Hadaka Matsuri at Hotojuki Yakushido
The Hadaka Matsuri, or literally, "naked festival," involves several young men clad only in loin cloths (fundoshi) in order to increase virility and fertility. There is also a fire ceremony. Runs from about 8:00-12:00. 10 minute walk from Ichinobe Station, Omi Tetsudo Line.
January 8 MORIYAMA
Fire Festival at Kurabe Shrine
New Year's fire ceremony. A short walk from JR Moriyama Station, Biwako Line.
|January 10-March 10 NAGAHAMA
Bonsai Plum Exhibition
Trees on display are up to 400 years old. Runs daily from 9:00-17:00. Quite crowded on weekend afternoons. 5 minute walk from JR Nagahama Station, Hokuriku Line, and many trains on the Biwako Line.
January 15 YOKAICHI
A large (6m x 6.6m) kite is flown in celebration of Adults' Day at Seitoku Chu-gakko. Runs from around 12:00-13:00. 15 minute walk from Yakaichi Station, Omi Tetsudo Line.
|Early February OTSU
Setsubun Festival at Omi-jingu
Setsubun means the parting of the seasons. Held on the eve of spring, this festival is to drive out the ogres who come out on the last day of winter. Starts around 16:00. 15 minute walk from JR Nishi-Otsu Station, Kosei Line, or a 5 minute walk from Omi-Jingumae Station, Keihan Line.
Early February TAGA
Haru Matsuri at Taga Taisha
Celebration for the coming of spring. A short walk from Taga Station, Omi Tetsudo Line, or a bus ride from Minami Hikone Station, Biwako Line.
|February 25 SUGAHARA, YASU
Hiwatari Shinji at Sugahara Jinja
This festival includes the burning of wooden tablets inscribed with wishes, and fire walking. Fire walkers cross a three meter stretch of coals, praying for health and the fulfillment of wishes. After completing the toasty walk you can have your footprint made for around 400 yen. Runs from around 10:00-12:00. Bus from JR Yasu Station, Biwako Line, bound for Ebe. From there it's a ten minute walk.
February 17-19 TSUCHIYAMA
Tamura Jinja Festival
Large winter festival includes traditional food and dress. Bus from JR Mikumo Station, Kusatsu Line.
|March 3 SAKAMOTO, OTSU
Okoshi Age at Hiyoshi Taisha
Two portable shrines (mikoshi) weighing about 1.5 tons each are carried to the top of the mountain. Runs from around 9:00-10:00. A short walk from Sakamoto Station, Keihan Line, or about a 15 minute walk from JR Heizan-Sakamoto Station, Kosei Line.
A regatta is held to celebrate the opening of the sight-seeing season on Lake Biwa. Fifty decorated boats take part. There is also a parade from the port to the station. Runs from around 9:30 to 13:00. A short walk from Hamaotsu Station, Keihan Line, or a 20 minute walk from JR Otsu Station, Biwako Line.
Sagi-cho Matsuri at Hachimangu Jinja
This festival was started by Oda Nobunaga as a grand street party and dance attended by his retainers and townspeople. 7 meter long bamboo and straw floats are paraded through the older sections of town. They are carried by young men dressed as women, or in many cases, just dressed flamboyantly. The floats are decorated with large colored paper fans, paper balloons (kusudama) and dolls shaped like the Chinese zodiac animal of the current year. Floats are burned on Sunday evening. Usually runs on Saturday from about 13:00-17:00 and on Sunday from about 13:00-20:00. 30 minute walk or a 10 minute taxi or bus ride from JR Omihachiman Station, Biwako Line.
Hodensai at Himure Jinja
Locals parade through the streets wearing red, laquered geta, shuffling and clapping in time. A pyramid decorated with a 27 meter pole with streamers is carried through the streets. In the evening the decorations are taken to the shrine and burned in a bonfire around which people dance and bake mochi. Runs from about 10:30-midnight. 30 minute walk or a 10 minute taxi or bus ride from JR Omihachiman Station, Biwako Line.
Mikabe Matsuri at Mikabe Jinja
In a festival to welcome spring, decorated wagons are pulled by horses and youths dressed in loin cloths carry sake barrels. The festival begins with prayers to the fire god of the kitchen (kamado no kami) and ends with a procession of horses. Starts at around 10:00. 30 minute walk or 5 minute taxi ride from Yokaichi Station, Omi Tetsudo Line.
Early Spring HIKONE
Ume Matsuri at Hikone-jo Orchard
A festival for celebrating the plum blossoms in the castle orchard. 10-15 minute walk from JR Hikone Station, Biwako Line.
|April is cherry blossom month!
The trees tend to bloom around the first weekend in April but they occasionally bloom later or earlier, so be on the lookout for blossoms. It is popular to have picnics (and lots of sake) beneath the trees. The most famous viewing spot in Shiga is Kaizu-osaki in Makino-cho. April is often claimed to be the most beautiful month in Japan.
Early April ZEZE, OTSU
Zeze Castle Park has over 150 cherry trees. 10 minute walk from Zeze-Honmachi Station, Keihan Line.
April 1-20 HIKONE
Cherry Blossom Festival at Hikone-jo
There are over 1300 cherry trees on the grounds of Hikone Castle, and all the trees are lit up with lanterns in the evening. 10 minute walk from JR Hikone Station, Biwako Line.
April 12-14 OTSU
Sannosai Festival at Hiyoshi Shrine
On April 12 there is a portable shrine procession between two mountain top shrines. This runs from 19:00-22:00. On April 13 there is a tea ceremony procession of sacred children and knights in armour. At night, portable shrines are shaken, dropped, and carried along. On April 14, seven mikoshi (portable shrines) are carried from Hiyoshi Jinja to a boat on Lake Biwa. The mikoshi are returned to the shore about 1 hour later. A short walk from Sakamoto Station, Keihan Line, or a 15 minute walk from JR Hieizan-Sakamoto Station, Kosei Line.
|April 13-15 NAGAHAMA
With a donation of gold from Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the citizens of Nagahama built twelve wooden floats. They are a magnificent spectacle of red, gold and silver lacquer work with beautiful tapestries. On festival nights the men of four participation areas run through the streets in loin cloths, carrying lanterns and shouting. On the final day, the floats serve as stages for young boys performing kabuki plays. After the boys daily practice, the men run to Hachiman Shrine and bathe in its water for purification. On April 13, there is an afternoon procession of mikoshi to the shrine, and on April 14, a morning procession of the child performers in full costume. There are all-day Kabuki performances on April 15 which run from around 10:00-20:00. A short walk from JR Nagahama Station, Hokuriku Line and many trains from the Biwako Line.
April 20 MINAKUCHI
A chance to see the town's several traditional mikoshi on display. There are also many food stalls and sales, as well as traditional music and dancing. A short walk from Minakuchi Station, Omi Tetsudo Line.
April 29-May 5 TAKATSUKI
Koi Nobori Age
Around 400 flying carp on display in celebration of Childrens' Day. A popular time for picnics and sports. 20 minute walk from Takatsuki Station, Hokuriku Line (from the south, you can change trains either in Maibara or Nagahama).
|May 4 OMIHACHIMAN
Shinoda No Hi Matsuri at Shinoda Jinja
At around 2:00 four big torches are lit, followed by fireworks an hour later. Bus to Ueda-cho from JR Omihachiman Station, Biwako Line/Omi Tetsudo Line.
Early May SHINASAHI
Shichikawa Matsuri at Oarahiko Jinja
'Horse Festival' on the west side of the lake. Runs from about 11:00-16:00. 25 minute walk from JR Shinasahi Station, Kosei Line.
May 5 MAIBARA
Nabe Kammuri Festival at Chikuma Shrine
A very unusual festival, eight young girls wearing special kimono parade 2 kilometers through the streets of town wearing paper pots as crowns. Starts at around 14:00. A short walk from JR Maibara Station, Biwako Line.
|May 5 MORIYAMA
Sushi Kiri Matsuri at Shimoniikawa Jinja
Ceremonial cutting of funazushi, a local delicacy (known for its strong aroma), at the shrine. A short walk from JR Moriyama Station, Biwako Line.
May 16-18 OTSU
Literally '1000 rice cake festival.' Children write their names on tortoise shells and float them in a pond. There is a large market fair where you can buy seedlings, flowers and vegetable plants. Runs from around 10:00-17:00. 5 minute walk from Miidera Station, Keihan Line.
Late May YOKAICHI
Odako Matsuri at Echigawa
A rather famous festival of kites in all shapes and sizes. Sign-up to pull the tow rope of the largest kite, which attempts to lift off 3 or 4 times during the day. Food and drink stalls will also be available. Runs from around 10:00-17:00. From Yokaichi Station, Omi Tetsudo Line, walk 10 minutes to the city hall, and from there a bus to the river will be available. (Just follow the crowd!)
|Early June TAGA
Rice Planting Festival at Taga Taisha
Rice planting ceremony performed by 80 girls in farmer's costumes, accompanied by traditional music and dancing. Admission charge of 500 yen includes a souvenir. Starts at around 13:00. 20 minute walk from Taga Station, Omi Tetsudo Line, or a bus from JR Minami-Hikone, Biwako Line.
Second Saturday in June ISHIYAMA
Ao Oni Matsuri at Ishiyamadera
A five meter tall demon made of cedar branches is displayed at the main gate of Ishiyama Temple. 1000 fireflies are released. Starts at around 19:00. 10 minute walk from Ishiyamadera Station, Keihan Line.
|Mid June SANTO
Fireflies have a very short life span so be sure to see them in all their summer glory while you can. There are food stalls in town, and the fireflies are a short walk down to the riverbank. Runs from around 17:00-21:00. A short walk from JR Omi-Nagaoka Station, Tokaido Line (change trains in Maibara).
|July 16-17 KYOTO
One of the most famous festivals in Japan, actually begins on the first of July. The main procession of floats is on the last two days of the festival. The festival lasts all day. Be prepared for an ENORMOUS croud. 10 minute walk to Gion from Sanjo Station, Keihan Line.
July 25-26 TSUCHIYAMA
Mantoshi at Tamura Jinja
A ten-thousand lantern festival. Traditional food and music will be available. Bus from JR Mikumo Station, Kusatsu Line.
|July 29 TSUCHIYAMA
Summer Festival at Bunka Hora
A large festival held on top of a hill in a modern facility. Includes traditional food, dancing and a concert. Bus from JR Mikumo Station, Kusatsu Line.
July 31-August 1 TSUCHIYAMA
Festival at Shirakawa Jinja
A small festival held at the local shrine. Bus from JR Mikumo Station, Kusatsu Line.