Hokkaido:Japanese Festivals (Matsuri)
Japanese matsuri (traditional festivals) have deep links to the four seasons and the countless kami (deities).
Since ancient times, Japanese have lived their lives in acceptance of the blessings and hardships of each season, and prayed to kami for luck, bountiful harvests and catches, and to avoid disasters. Throughout the year, matsuri are held in each region of Japan so that people can celebrate the kami and express their gratitude. There are matsuri for each stage of life, from ones that pray for the healthy growth of children to ones that provide comfort for the souls of the deceased.
Japan has virtually an infinite number of kami, and there are matsuri to celebrate the kami that reside in almost anything—from natural scenery and fields, to household objects and foodstuffs. Furthermore, in addition to observing traditional local matsuri, Japanese are receptive to other cultures and religions and now also enjoy celebrating overseas holidays, such as Christmas and Halloween.
When attending a matsuri, learning about the reason behind the festival can provide a deeper understanding of the culture and make the experience more enjoyable. It is also advisable to confirm in advance whether there are any rules or taboos for a given event. You wouldn’t want to offend the kami or spirit being celebrated.
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