If you’re traveling to Japan, make sure to schedule your trip around the many festivals or matsuri that take place throughout the year. Nearly every city, town, village, and even neighborhood has its own festival, and they’re a great way to experience and learn about local music, food, art, and history.
Matsuri are often held in autumn, and serve as a celebration of the harvest (which explains all the great food you’ll encounter during your visit). Here in Nagoya, the city’s annual festival takes place over two days October, and features dozens of events, including J-Pop performances, samurai shows, and parades.
This was my first time shooting the Nagoya Festival, and it was some of the most fun I’ve had since moving to Japan. I hope the gallery below will inspire you to visit Japan and experience matsuri for yourself.
There’s no stop to the music during the festival. Here children play traditional flutes during a parade.
The clothing on display comes from several different historical periods. Here a young girl wears a kind of traditional Japanese dress for female travelers.
The energy brought by the performers makes the matsuri come alive.
History comes alive during the Nagoya Festival.
A samurai warrior leads the shogun’s horse during the parade.
Several J-Pop idol groups performed at this year’s Nagoya Matsuri.
Members of the J-Pop group P.IDL take a selfie before their performance.
If for nothing else, go to matsuri for the food. Here a vendor prepares beef skewers, or kushiyaki.
Okonomiyaki is a popular grilled Japanese pancake stuffed full of all kinds of goodness.
Try a chocolate covered banana on a stick for dessert.
There’s international food as well. Here a man serves Turkish ice cream to a festival-goer.
The Nagoya festival features parades on both days featuring dozens of cultural and civic groups and drawing thousands of spectators.
A ninja challenges the photographer during the parade.
You’ll see all kinds of traditional Japanese clothing from many historical periods. Here people wear a type of geta or wooden sandal.
People start lining up on the streets in downtown Nagoya well before the start of the parade. Here people watch as women on tall unicycles ride during the parade.
A traffic guard keeps the parade route clear.
Geisha performers walk during the parade.
Women wearing traditional Japanese clothes and carrying brightly colored umbrellas walking during the 2015 Nagoya Festival parade.