Japanese Calendar Holidays & Festivals

Culture Day  (bunka no hi)  National Holiday


Culture Day (bunkanohi) on November 3rd was originally celebrated as the birthday of the Emperor Meiji, Japan's pivotal Imperial leader of the late Nineteenth Century. Japan began to modernize amidst the backdrop of external pressures from Western Powers and internal weaknesses of the Tokugawa Shogun's bakufu government, bringing about the Meiji Restoration, with renewed emphasis on the power and leadership of Emperor Meiji.

Since 1946 this holiday is officially remembered as "Culture Day", celebrating life, freedom and culture.


From October 28 to November 4 at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo will be one of the biggest and best festivals of the year. The purpose of the Autumn Festival is to thank the spirits for a good crop harvest, but accompanying the thankfulness will be a variety of Japanese cultural activities. Every day there will be music and dance performances. Additionally, outdoor martial arts exhibitions, several Noh plays, and other cultural entertainment will give visitors many reasons to stay an entire day or longer.

Since this is a very popular Tokyo festival expect a large crowd of spectators, particularly on the weekend of November 2-3. Take your camera and the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station in SW Tokyo. The Meiji Shrine is just to the west of the station (north of Yoyogi Park). (by Paul Abramson)


The Annual Autumn Festival is one of the biggest and best annual festivals in the Tokyo area. It will be held this year at the Meji Shrine, from October 28th to November 4th. The original intent of the celebration was to thank the spirits for a good harvest, but today there are a host of accompanying festivities and demonstrations. Every day will have various music and dance performances. Also, several outdoor martial arts exhibitions, Noh plays, and traditional dances will be performed.

Because of the popularity of this festival you may want to try to avoid the biggest crowds (expected on Sat & Sun, 10-31 & 11-1) and go on a weekday if possible. Take your camera, folding seat or blanket to sit on, and the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station in SW Tokyo. (Or via the Chiyoda Subway Line to Meijijingumae Station.) The Large wooded Meiji Shrine is just to the west of both stations (north of Yoyogi Park.)


The Tokyo Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Eras) is an annual parade displaying authentic costumes worn in Tokyo's past eras. Most of these garments are brought out only once each year, for this particular festival.

The parade starts at 1:30PM on Sunday, November 3rd, from the Niten-mon Gate of Sensoji Temple, just west of Asakusa Station. There will be 1,200 participants wearing costumes in the long procession! Because of the crowds (tens of thousands) it is best to arrive at least an hour before the parade starts. The parade will go west down Umamachi-dori Ave., ending at Sushiya-dori Ave., near Tawaramachi Station. (So folks, shhh, here's a secret tip- go to Tawaramachi Station (instead of Asakusa) and head east (on Umamachi-dori) to find a good spot for viewing the parade.)

Tawaramachi Station is east of Ueno, on the Ginza Line. Asakusa is the next station east, and is on the Ginza and Toei Asakusa Lines. (by Paul Abramson)


The Festival of Eras (Tokyo's Jidai Matsuri) features a long lively procession of costumed participants in historical cultural costumes. How long, you say? Well, try - 1200 persons! Many of these decorative garments are carefully stored only to be brought out once each year specifically for this parade.

On Tuesday, November 3, around 1:30 in the afternoon, the parade will begin. The starting point is the Nitenmon Gate of Sensoji Temple, at Asakusa. The parade will then follow west along Umamachi-dori (the crowds will be lined up making it easy to locate), and finally going to Sushiya-dori Ave., near Tawaramachi Subway Station. Tens of thousands of spectators will gather along the parade route, but it shouldn't be too hard to find a good viewing spot along the course of the parade route. In fact many people go straight to Tawaramachi Station (near the end) and trace the route backwards to find a good spot. And in fact this may be a better idea than going straight to Asakusa and having to fight the crowds near the beginning of the parade.

To get to Asakusa Station take either the TRTA Ginza Subway Line, or the TOEI Asakusa Subway Line (to east of Ueno). Tawaramachi Station is also located on the Ginza Subway Line, east of Ueno. (by Paul Abramson)

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