Matsuri, festivals of Japan 日本の祭り

  • Published on : 24/03/2020
  • by : K.C. / I.D.O.
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Everything you need to know about matsuri

The matsuri are at the origin of the ceremonies in honor of the Shinto deities. They take place throughout the year across the Archipelago and are of great importance. Nowadays, the word matsuri can refer to any holiday. Whatever the origin or the theme of these festivals, they constitute for travelers a plunge into the centuries-old traditions of Japan and shake up stereotypes: Japanese parading in half-naked, men and women huddled together to wear the " divine palanquins ", jubilant crowds… We are far from the image of reserved and shy Japanese people…

Small glossary to help you find your way

  • Dashi, danjiri , hikiyama, hoko, yama (mountain) , yatai: these terms, which vary depending on the region, are huge wooden floats paraded during certain matsuri . In ancient times, the Japanese believed that the gods came down to earth during matsuri . To accommodate them, small mountains or small mounds of earth were prepared. Over time, these small mountains have become vehicles that can be moved: they are festival floats. This is why, for example, the characters to form the word dashi are those of "mountain" 山 and "wheel" 車.

Later, we built very elaborate floats, delicately worked and decorated, representing a sanctuary or other buildings or objects representative of a city or a district, or even a boat. There are around 5,000 distributed throughout the archipelago. Some host karakuri , large dolls usually representing deities.

Enfants tirant un petit mikoshi

Enfants tirant un petit mikoshi


Happi avec le kanji de matsuri

Happi avec le kanji de matsuri


The course of a matsuri

  • The sacred ceremony

A matsuri generally takes place in two parts : the sacred part where the priest or the higher priestess, gûji sama, invokes the divinity by incantations and asks her to "descend" into the relic of the sanctuary, the physical incarnation of the kami , that the guji sama will place in the main mikoshi that it will seal.

This sacred ceremony takes place "behind closed doors", inside the sanctuary ( honden ), where the relic of the kami is deposited. Only members of the sanctuary and a few personalities can attend these rituals. Access to the honden is still prohibited to the public.

This very ritualized sacred ceremony is followed by the procession of mikoshi , a popular festivity imbued with dynamism and gaiety where the sacred character of the festival is sometimes difficult to detect ...

Porteurs de mikoshi le secouant de toutes leurs forces

Porteurs de mikoshi le secouant de toutes leurs forces


An air of funfair with Japanese street food

The shrine of which it is the matsuri is found surrounded by stalls of games and food , the Yatai . The most popular dishes are takoyaki (octopus balls), kara-age (fried chicken), yakisoba (stir-fried noodles), yakitori and kakigôri (crushed ice cream in syrup) and taiyaki (waffles filled with a accompaniement). Children also feast on cotton candy.

During summer matsuri , children have fun catching goldfish using paper landing nets. Shooting stands and various games are reminiscent of our fairgrounds.

La pêche aux poissons rouges,  activité populaire du matsuri

La pêche aux poissons rouges, activité populaire du matsuri

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