The Varied Festivals of Japan

If you're looking to take a holiday in Asia, Japan is an excellent choice. It's a land of many contrasts with ultra modern lifestyles juxtaposed against ancient traditions, and rural communities set against sprawling metropolises. A single holiday in Japan can take in many conflicting aspects of life in the country.

If you're looking to absorb the culture, or simply to find some outstanding entertainment for your stay, you could do a lot worse than timing your visit to coincide with one of the many popular festivals that the country is host to. Here are some of the more memorable ones :

Sapporo Snow Festival

The Sapporo Snow Festival will be entering its 60th year in February 2009, and you can expect the event to have an extra special feel to go along with its landmark year. The festival, based in Sapporo the capital of Hokkaido takes place over a week and includes the construction of hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures throughout the town. Each year you can expect around 400 immaculately sculpted ice structures displaying everything from instantly recognisable landmarks to famous celebrities. If you're planning a winter holiday in Japan, then it's well worth joining the 2,000,000 people expected to attend this legendary festival.

Nagasaki Kunchi Festival

If you're taking your holiday in Japan in Autumn, the Nagasaki Kunchi festival is a must. Started in the 16th century to celebrate the harvests, the festival has now grown to become one of the most popular in Japan. Visitors to the country will be able to see traditional dancing, huge floats decorated like river barges or Chinese boats and the legendary 'dragon dance'. To give you an idea over how well planned the whole thing is, preparations for the annual festival begin as early as June 1st.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri Festival

The Gion Festival is another famous one, this time held annually in Kyoto. Unlike the previous entries, this one is on for the entire month of July, but the legendary parade (Yamaboko Junko) is worth being there for on the 17th. Those wanting to get an insight into how Kyoto residents live will also want to visit at this time, as the customary Byobo Matsuri (folding screen festival) means that many residents will open their homes for others to visit. An unparalleled opportunity to get off the tourist trail and see how people live on your holiday in Asia.

Nebuta Matsuri Festival

The largest festival in the Tohoku region is the most popular 'nebuta' event in the country with tourists, and that should be enough to convince you to visit on your holiday in Asia. Nebuta festivals involve the float of brave warrior figures carried around the city, accompanied by dancers moving in time to the famous Rassera chant. It has an atmosphere like no other, and is definitely worth seeing.

Sanja Matsuri Festival

Although Sanja Matsuri is celebrated nationwide, Tokyo is without doubt the place to be for it. The main festivities take place at the Sensoji Shrine on the third weekend of May and some 2 million people come to enjoy the huge parades, traditional music and dancing. Those who dislike crowds need not apply, but it is an unusual experience that everyone with an interest in Japanese culture should try.

Takayama Matsuri Festival

One of Japan's most popular festivals, the Takayma Matsuri festivities take place both in Spring and Autumn. Both festivals welcome the changing seasons and involve colourful floats moving through the Takayama streets and huge crowds. The Autumn version is on the 9th and 10th October, while the Spring version is held on April 14th-15th. Accommodation can be hard to come by, but tourists looking to see it should be able to find something in the neighbouring towns of Furukawa and Gero Onsen.

Fuji Rock Festival

It may not be a traditional cultural experience like the others, but if your idea of a good music festival is a muddy field in England, Fuji Rock may just change your expectations completely. Hosted at the Naeba Ski Resort (it was moved from Fuji in 1997, but retained the name), it is the cleanest mainstream music festival you'll likely ever see. Alongside quality food and drink, the acts are impressive too past years have attracted the like of The Cure, The Chemical Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck and The Foo Fighters.

Whether you're interested in music, arts or just absorbing the country's history and culture, there is a Japanese festival for you. By timing your luxury holiday in Japan to coincide with one of these festivals, you're guaranteeing yourself memories that will last a lifetime.