Ⅸ. Matsuri – Celebrations and Commemorations Across Kyushu
By: Vicki L. Beyer
Most people familiar with Japan will recognize the word “matsuri”, but are often a bit unsure of
exactly what it means. According to one of the priests at Kirishima Jingu
shrine, originally a matsuri was any Shinto observance. By this definition,
it’s possible to maintain that there are daily matsuri at most Shinto shrines. However,
for most Japanese the concept of matsuri seems to have evolved. Matsuri, these
days, is any large, usually shrine-based, event that involves broad community
participation. In other words, a festival.
Matsuri are often wild, fun spectacles to watch or even, in some
cases, to join in. Many have centuries of tradition behind them, and yet they
remain current and popular. As Waseda University Professor Emeritus Sakuji
Yoshida very aptly put it, “Matsuri are treasures of Japanese culture.”
Some matsuri are tied to a particularly significant date, becoming
part of the annual cycle of life.
Celebrations like New Year’s, Setsubun, and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes
are examples of this. Additionally, there are matsuri that developed based on
an event that the community wants to commemorate, usually on an annual basis.
These matsuri are largely centered on gratitude: giving thanks for things like
a good harvest, the end of an epidemic, or for victory in battle. Sometimes the
matsuri are more forward-looking, an event to petition the gods for luck or
future success or to be spared from natural disasters.
Historically most villages did not keep records about their matsuri.
The rituals involved were often meant to be secret and it was enough that the
traditions were passed from parent to child. In modern times, more records are
kept and the outside world knows much more about how matsuri proceed. At the
same time, it is likely that certain practices have evolved or been lost over
the years due to the lack of records.
Most traditional shrine-based matsuri have three central elements: kami-oroshi, kami-asobi and kami-okuri.
Kami-oroshi means bringing the god down. The idea is that humans call upon the
god or gods of the shrine to join them on earth for the duration of the
matsuri.Priests handle this invocation, which sometimes involves transferring
the god from the inner sanctum of the shrine building into a portable shrine
called o-mikoshi that devotees will
carry around the community (think of it as allowing the god to make house
calls), forming a parade.
Kami-asobi means playing with the god. This is the crux of the
matsuri. It might include parading with the o-mikoshi, but it may also include
music, dancing, and other revelry. In some cases, someone in the community
trains to perform a specific dance or performance, often wearing a mask. By
taking such a role the volunteer(s) effectively becomes the god for the
duration of the performance. It's all about pageantry and performance. In the
case of some matsuri, the revelry can get pretty wild and it is quite a
spectacle to watch.
Besides entertaining the gods through music or dancing, food
offerings are also important. Food offerings are usually comprised of umi no sachi (bounty of the sea) and yama no sachi (bounty of the land), an
ancient tradition with its roots in Japan’s origin legends (see “Spiritual
Island”). Two of the sons of Ninigi, the god sent to earth by his grandmother,
Amaterasu, came to be known as Umi no sachi (Hoderi) and Yama no sachi (Hoori).
Since all food is either from the land or from the sea, it makes sense to pay
homage to these two gods who are responsible for ensuring nutrition. Umi no
sachi offerings are usually fish, and sometimes seaweed, while yama no sachi
offerings are predominately vegetables, perhaps with some fruit or grain. Once
upon a time, game meat was also a common offering, but from 675AD, meat was
prohibited. There are a number of reasons for this, including the Buddhist
reluctance to kill animals and the Shinto mandate against spilling blood.
Additionally, as Japan was trying to catch up to China and emulate Chinese
influences during this period, there was a strong desire by Japanese officials
to discourage hunting and promote agricultural endeavors. While none of this is
relevant today, the make-up of the offerings is a tradition that has survived
Kami-okuri means sending off the god. It is the last stage of the
festival when the god returns home and normal life resumes. This part of the
matsuri may be quite subdued, even sad, and often not even visible to the
general public. For matsuri participants it is an important final step in the
Perhaps because of the long period when Shinto and Buddhism
co-existed and were even practiced as a single religion, most Buddhist matsuri
practices are similar, although there is no o-mikoshi in Buddhist-based
One aspect of ensuring that festivals survive down the generations
is that there is often a small sized o-mikoshi, as well as a larger o-mikoshi,
so before the main parade there is a children's parade as well. This allows
children to absorb the events of a matsuri and gain an interest in perpetuating
them from an early age.
At nearly every matsuri there is not only the above-mentioned food
for the gods, but there is also food for the participants and onlookers. Festival
food is prepared by travelling vendors who set up stalls, often lining the
approach to the shrine, or streets nearby. The food ranges from fried noodles,
a savory pancake called okonomiyaki,
and fried chicken, to massive steamed potatoes slathered with butter and red
bean paste-filled sweets fresh off the griddle. Sampling some of these treats
adds to the fun of watching the events of the festival unfold.
In the end, most traditional matsuri are a big party, popular with
locals and tourists alike.
Matsuri can be found across Kyushu. A few examples are given below.
The first festival of the new year at Hakozaki Hachimangu shrine in
Fukuoka takes place on January 3. Known as Tamaseseri (“ball seizing”), the
festival involves moving a specially washed, blessed and oiled wooden orb from
a small local shrine to the main Hakozaki Hachimangu shrine.
Hakozaki Hachimangu has two wooden balls, representing yin and yang,
the eternal balance. Both balls are washed and blessed as part of the festival,
but it is the yang ball, representing energy, heat, light, positivity and
masculinity, that gets carried. This is where the festival gets interesting.
Even though it is early January, local men and boys dressed only in a white
loincloth known as “fundoshi”, work
in teams to move the ball down the road. For the first couple of blocks, it is
the boys’ job to carry the orb, although many anxious fathers and mothers are
on the sidelines cheering them on. The action is like a giant game of “keep it
up”. Some boys ride on the shoulders of others and carry the call, or pass it
back and forth to others. As the entire knot of humanity moves slowly along,
locals “help” by splashing them with water (whichis meant to keep them pure and
After a couple of blocks the ball is handed over to the men, and the
action continues. Originally the men were divided into two teams, representing
land and sea, and based on the team that ultimately got the ball back to the
shrine there would be good harvests or good fishing catches in the year to
come. While this competition is no longer part of the matsuri, the men still
seem to act in competition, vying for control of the ball.
Eventually when the men get the ball back to the main shrine, a
waiting priest accepts it and undertakes a small ritual offering both balls
back to the gods. Interestingly, the yang ball has been man-handled in this
matsuri for so many years (no one is sure exactly how many) that it has been
worn down and is no longer even round.
While this isn’t a festival in which outsiders can participate, it
is quite thrilling to watch the action and a wonder that some of these men and
boys aren’t hospitalized with pneumonia afterward. There’s a lot to be said for
the power of adrenalin.
For the first two weeks of July every year, Kushida Shrine in
Fukuoka is host to an entirely different kind of matsuri: the Hakata Gion
Yamakasa Matsuri. Like its famous cousin in Kyoto, the matsuri was started
centuries ago, commemorating the end of an epidemic. The epidemic had
apparently been stopped by locals carrying a priest through the community,
sprinkling sacred water on everyone. Following this miracle, the event was
commemorated by developing elaborate floats, towers of figures depicting
historical characters and events, and parading them through the streets. It is
believed that by honoring the original cure in this way, future epidemics can
be warded off.
This festival features two kinds of floats: Kazariyamakasa and Kakiyamakasa.
Kazariyamakasa are massive structures, standing up to 16 meters (52.5 feet)
tall. Historically these floats were raced through the streets of the Hakata
area of Fukuoka at the end of the matsuri, but with the introduction of
overhead electrical wires, this was no longer possible. Instead the 14
historical floats are now displayed in various corners of the city for people
to admire throughout the matsuri period.
These days there are seven smaller Kakiyamakasa floats which are
toted around the city as part of the matsuri. Kakiyamakasa floats are similarly
decorated, but are only around 5 or 6 meters (16 to 20 feet) tall. Even at this
reduced size, each float still weighs around a ton and it takes more than 30
men to move them. Nonetheless, they are carried in a race at break-neck speed
through a five kilometer (3.1 mile) course of city streets on the final day of
the matsuri (July 15). Fortunately, the race is timed against the clock; all
seven floats on the streets at once would be bedlam. The teams carrying each
float consist of hundreds of members that take turns at regular intervals along
During the festival, it’s quite fun to wander city side streets in a
cotton yukata on a warm summer’s evening, visiting the various Kazariyamakasa
floats to admire the workmanship of the dolls and try to guess which historical
figures are represented. To bring things up to date, famous animation figures
are now featured on some floats, alongside the historical characters. Part of
the enjoyment is also buying food and drink from temporary stalls and rubbing
elbows with locals, just soaking up the festive atmosphere.
Another annual festival with more than seven centuries of history is
the Miare Matsuri and Grand Autumn Festival that take place at Munakata Taisha
Shrine (see “Spiritual Island”) during the first three days of October. The
festivities begin with the Miare Matsuri in which the two sister gods who
reside on off-shore islands are brought from their homes to the Munakata Taisha
Shrine. A flotilla of local fishing boats make their way out to Okinoshima to
fetch Tagori. This kami-oroshi part of the matsuri can only be attended by men.
Women are never allowed on Okinoshima, nor are they allowed to ride on any of
the boats involved in Tagori’s kami-oroshi. Baby sister, Takitsu, is also
carried to the mainland from her home on Oshima. In both cases, the fleet of
hundreds of fishing boats coming ashore at Konominato, all decorated with
stalks of bamboo and colorful flags flapping in the wind, is a spectacular
Once the goddesses have landed they are reunited with their sister,
Ichikishima, who has been carried to the port from the Munakata Grand Shrine.
All three goddesses are then paraded back to Munakata Taisha Shrine, where they
are made at home, each in her own shrine building.
The purpose of the matsuri is to please the goddesses so that they
will ensure good fishing catches throughout the coming year. Various events are
held during the three days of the festival, including horseback archery and
ritual dancing. The Okinamai
(literally “old man dance”) is an elaborate performance by a masked dancer that
is said to pre-date Noh.
On the last night of the matsuri, a final dance is performed by
shrine maidens, called the “Eternal Dance”. This dance takes place by lamplight
at the uppermost shrine of Munakata Taisha. This shrine is a sacred place so
old that it has no shrine building. Everything is done outdoors, just as it
would have been in the earliest days of Shinto. Watching these rituals, it is
clear why UNESCO has honored the shrines of these sisters with World Heritage
The autumn harvest festival of Karatsu in Saga Prefecture is
regarded as one of the major matsuri of Kyushu. Held November 2-4 every year,
the matsuri is known as Karatsu Kunchi. Kunchi is a local abbreviation of ku-nichi, which means ninth day of the
month, as the matsuri was held on the ninth day of the ninth month under the
old lunar calendar.
The festival is known for its tasty food, including special items
families make for themselves as part of the harvest celebration, but also lots
of fantastic street food.
This matsuri is particularly famous for its parades of fourteen
colorful floats, moved and supported by volunteers from the neighborhoods to
which each float belongs. The enormous floats are called hikiyama (pulled mountains), possibly because of their size. Each
one is five to six meters (16 to 20 feet) tall and weighs between two and five
tons. These particular floats are all antiques. They were made especially for
the Karatsu Kunchi by different neighborhoods at different times throughout the
19th century, and have been lovingly preserved and embellished over
the years. Each float has its own theme, often featuring fish, animals or
mythical characters from Japanese legends.
During the Karatsu Kunchi, there are daily parades. The first takes
place at night and the floats are lit by traditional paper lanterns, a
spectacle in itself. On the second day, the floats are paraded to Nishinohama,
one of Karatsu’s beaches. The third parade returns the floats to their
year-round home, the Hikiyama Float Exhibition Hall, where, as designated
cultural properties, they are on display to visitors year-round (closed for a
few days at New Year’s). For this third parade, many of the revelers wear 19th
century firemen’s uniforms instead of their usual cotton festival happi coat.
The biggest matsuri in the city of Nagasaki is the Nagasaki Kunchi
matsuri that takes place annually October 7-9. The matsuri commenced in 1634
with shrine maidens dancing in thanks for a good harvest. It evolved into a
major event by 1672, when the shogunate mandated that every district in
Nagasaki city participate by preparing some kind of entertaining performance
and an elaborate float for the matsuri parade. Both the performance and the
float were essentially offerings to the gods of Suwa Shrine. At that time, the
shogunate was trying to eradicate Christianity, which was prevalent in
Nagasaki. The thinking was that mandating broad participation in this
shrine-based matsuri would either identify Christians, who could then be
persecuted, or would return people to Shintoism.
The matsuri’s parade began with people from each district, marching
or dancing in matching costumes, followed by their float and performers. After
these groups had paraded, three major omikoshi carrying the three gods of Suwa
Shrine would follow. The object of the parade was to delight and amaze
spectators with new ideas and phantasmagorical entertainment. That remains the
case today. You can visit one of Nagasaki’s local history museums to see
detailed scroll drawings of parades from two or three centuries ago. Those
revelers would still feel right at home in this year’s Kunchi parade.
At one time, there were 80 districts involved; even the Dutch
traders of Dejima were required to attend and participate, a bit of an
inconvenience for them since October tended to be when their trading ships
arrived from Indonesia. Having 80 districts participating eventually became too
many floats and performances (in the Edo Period literally hundreds participated
in the parade) so a rotation schedule was set up requiring each neighborhood to
have a float only every seven years and a more limited role in the years in
between. After the Meiji restoration, participation was no longer mandated, yet
59 districts opted to continue the tradition. These days the number has further
dwindled and there are now only 47 neighborhoods participating in the rotation
Even in this scaled down version, the Nagasaki Kunchi matsuri is a
major event. Districts that aren’t on show in a particular year are often
spying on the others, to copy ideas in their efforts to outdo everyone when
their turn comes. According to Kan-ichi Yamashita, whose family has been
participating in the matsuri since at least his great-grandfather’s day, about
240 years ago, one district whose fishermen had caught a whale earlier in the
year decided their float that year would have a whale motif. That float must
have struck a chord with people; pretty soon several whale floats were showing
up in the parade. An effigy of an elephant seems to have similarly caught the
public imagination. In addition , floats in the shape of 17th
century trading ships and fishing boats enjoy popularity even today. Each float
is accompanied by performers in costumes that continue the theme of the float,
which usually plays a central role in the performance as well. The diversity of
floats and the costumes mirrors the diversity of the people of Nagasaki and
their polyglot history.
For the main event of the matsuri, revelers parade among four venues
where spectators can purchase tickets to seats on raised platforms to watch the
performances. Tickets sell out at least a month before the matsuri. As an
alternative, many people find they can also enjoy watching as the floats move
from one venue to another along the parade route, with spontaneous short
performances here and there.
Another aspect of the international flavor of the matsuri is the
traditional ja-odori (dragon dance).
Certainly there are few opportunities to witness a Chinese-style dragon dance
in Japan. Interestingly, the ja-odori wasn’t even introduced into the festival
until the late 19th century. Rather than being performed by the
people of just one district, every year on a separate rotation schedule
(usually four years after the district is responsible for a float and
performance), different districts are responsible for the dance.
It takes several dozen volunteers six months of training to learn to
handle the two dragons, one white and one green. The dragons are more like long
snakes with poles attached at regular intervals. The volunteers hold the poles
and move them to manipulate the snakes, causing them to spin, coil and ripple
as they chase a golden ball attached to another pole. It’s heavy, hard work and
the volunteers regularly switch, taking turns handling the dragons. Even the
way in which the poles are handed from one volunteer to another is a
crowd-pleasing part of the performance.
The ja-odori dragon dance is performed at the four designated
venues, accompanied by the cacophony of Chinese-style trumpets also played by
volunteers, often high school students. A group of grade school children that
the volunteers have trained, perform a little warm-up dance with a child-sized
dragon before the main ja-odori. The dragons also join in the main parade,
stopping along the route to bless households or participants, and giving a
grande finale performance at the end of the parade route. It’s not hard to see
why many people regard the ja-odori as the highlight of the matsuri.
With a history of more than 1,000 years, Fujisaki Hachimangu is the
oldest shrine in Kumamoto city. The origins of its annual matsuri, held in
mid-September, are less clear, although apparently it originally had something
to do with earning Buddhist merit by releasing captive fish or animals back
into the wild.
Many aspects of the matsuri as it occurs these days can be dated to
the late 16th century and Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s campaign in Korea. In
particular, one of the popular spectacles of this matsuri is a parade of men
dressed as 16th century warriors who march through the city streets.
This is essentially a re-enactment of the victory parade to the shrine made by
Kato Kiyomasa, then lord of Kumamoto castle, and his men, so that Kato could
give thanks to the gods for his victory. While most of the faux-warriors are
foot soldiers, there are a number mounted warriors as well, sitting astride
colorfully caparisoned horses. The parade is headed by the shrine’s o-mikoshi,
allowing the gods to also participate in the festivities.
Other parade sights include three sacred palanquins and groups
decked out in the traditional matsuri garb of shorts, a cotton happi coat, and
a headband. These revelers carry gongs, drums and horns that create quite a
commotion. At one point in the matsuri they participate in a “horse race” that
involves chasing a riderless (and possibly inebriated) horse through the city
streets, a rather raucous event.
A gentler feature of this festival is a Noh play performed near
Kami-Kumamoto Station where the parade takes a bit of a break.
Another Kumamoto festival that involves mostly parades and dancing
is the Yamaga Toro Matsuri. This matsuri, which takes place in mid-August, at
the time of o-bon, when Japanese
traditionally return to their hometowns to celebrate their ancestors and
welcome their spirits to return for a day. While the matsuri includes a
bon-odori dance on its second day, the matsuri’s ancient origins appear to be
unrelated to o-bon.
According to legend, Japan’s twelfth emperor, Keiko (13BC-130AD) was
travelling in Kyushu and was expected to stay overnight at Yamaga. When it
became foggy and the emperor did not arrive as expected, the women of the area
got torches and lined the road to light the way for him. The emperor spent the
night in a temporary palace built for him on the site of what later became
Yamaga’s Omiya Shrine.
Around the 14th or 15th century, the matsuri
to commemorate this imperial visit adopted paper lanterns that the women,
dressed in cotton summer yukata, tied to the tops of their heads. During this
time, Yamaga had developed fine papercraft, making many sturdy objects out of
paper, sheets of which are glued together and cut into shapes. The paper lantern
headdresses were a natural and beautiful extension of that art, which is still
Meanwhile, the men participating in the matsuri parade usually wear
cotton clothes in the style of 2,000 years ago and carry pine torches.
Since the matsuri is celebrated at the time of o-bon, on its second
night there is a huge bon-odori in the large open area near Omiya Shrine. Like
any bon-odori, the dancers move in concentric circles around a central stand
where the drums and fife are played. The distinction in this case is that the
dancers are one thousand women in cotton summer yukata with lit paper lanterns
tied to their heads. It makes for quite a sight.
Deep in the mountains of Oita’s Kunisaki Prefecture a different kind
of matsuri occurs every February. Known as the Shujo Onie Matsuri, this
thousand-year-old ritual is centered on the purifying power of fire and water …
and the duality of good and evil. As with many matsuri, the goal is to ensure
abundant harvests and good health in the year to come. In this case, the
festival originally took place at the lunar new year and stuck with this
February timing even after the lunar calendar was abandoned in the 19th
Shujo Onie Matsuri takes place annually at Tennenji temple and on
alternating years at Iwato-ji or Jobutsu-ji, two other temples on the Kunisaki
Peninsula. Notwithstanding the goal of ensuring good health, matsuri
participants engage in a few risky activities, beginning with stripping down to
their fundoshi loincloths for a ritual bath. Tennenji stands next to the
Nagaiwaya River and a massive boulder that stands in the middle of the river
has been carved with the Buddhist guardian deity Fudo (Buddhist carvings in
living rock in Oita are discussed in more detail in “Spiritual Island”). After
sunset, while Buddhist priests stand near the Fudo statue, participants plunge
themselves into the icy river for a ritual cleansing and frivolous fun as they
splash each other in the water.
Once cleansed, blessed, and dressed, the participants prepare a
large bonfire, from which they light three giant torches. These are regarded as
sacred flames, the sparks from which will impart safety and protection
(although the fire department is on hand just in case they don’t!). These
sparks are so important that the torches are knocked against the foundations of
the temple to provide it with such blessings.
The highlight of the matsuri is when two masked oni (demons), one dressed in black and one dressed in red, each
carrying a torch, perform a ritual dance. Sparks literally fly. Japanese demons
represent an interesting duality, since they are often benevolent until tamed
or conquered, after which it becomes
their role to aid humans. In this case, the demons have been summoned by the
priests, who purify them with sake before they commence their performance.
After the dance of the demons has finished, more sparks from their torches are
sprinkled over the crowd before the demons retire for the night, presumably
returning to their mountain home. Priests also toss rice cakes and amulets into
the waiting crowd, who jostle against each other to try and catch a bit of the
luck these items bring.
Because of the remote location, this matsuri does not attract big
crowds, but the locals are always welcoming of outsiders who join in. A word of
caution: because of the flying sparks and the burn risk, polyester clothing
should be avoided.
As noted in “Spiritual Island”, Miyazaki Jingu was established to
honor Emperor Jimmu, Japan’s first emperor. The shrine’s annual matsuri, held
on October 26 and 27, is primarily a special celebration of the emperor.
October 27 is traditionally regarded as the day on which Jimmu set sail from
Hyuga for the island of Honshu to begin the campaign that ultimately placed him
on the Chrysanthemum Throne.
The matsuri begins with performances of shishimai (lion dance) and yokagura
(storytelling dance) on the first night while Jimmu’s spirit is transferred to
a special kind of o-mikoshi called go-horen,
built for carrying an imperial god. The next day, there is a parade through
city streets with the go-horen, accompanied by dancers, musicians, and a parade
queen dressed as a traditional bride, sitting atop a horse led by her groom.
Ohara Matsuri, thought to be the largest matsuri in Kagoshima, is
held at the beginning of November. Unlike most matsuri, which have several centuries
of history, the Ohara Matsuri is a post-war development, commenced in 1949 on
the 60th anniversary of the founding of modern Kagoshima city.
Another reason for introducing the matsuri was to show the determination of the
city’s residents to rebuild and recover after the destruction of the war. The
main features of the matsuri are its celebration of traditional folk songs and
a parade of some 20,000 traditionally-garbed participants, spontaneous
participation is also encouraged, in fact they even offer dancing lessons for
foreign tourists. By all accounts, this is a friendly event that welcomes all
visitors. A great way to really connect with the locals.
Modern and Non-traditional
As noted earlier, traditional matsuri are usually centered on a
shrine or temple and involve honoring and thanking gods or requesting something
from them. But even these pious purposes don’t stop people from enjoying
themselves and having a good time. Matsuri are a wonderful excuse for a party.
Indeed, they reveal just how much the people of Kyushu enjoy
community and social events, or just a good get-together. And in that spirit,
there are various festivals across the island that are not necessarily rooted
in history or religion, but are different kinds of celebrations.
Just as Kagoshima’s Ohara Matsuri was introduced after World War II,
there are many other modern festivals unrelated to shrines or temples and some
even unrelated to wearing traditional costumes or performing traditional
In Nagasaki, residents of Chinatown have always celebrated Chinese
New Year. Since 1994, their festivities have been expanded into a two-week
celebration spread across the city and embraced by all. Known as the Nagasaki
Lantern Festival, more than 15,000 round, yellow paper lanterns and red
triangular pennants are strung up to line the streets and highlight the river.
Other colorful paper lanterns, not unlike the nebuta floats of Japan’s Tohoku
region, are also on display across the city. Chinatown is the most decorated area,
with both red and yellow lanterns and other good luck symbols to be seen
everywhere. There are also various parades and performances of Chinese
acrobatics, dragon dances and lion dances.
The Saga International Balloon Fiesta is a completely different kind
of festival. The area along the Kase River is known as the Saga Plain, a broad
flat area perfect for hot air ballooning. For one week in late October and
early November more than 100 hot air balloons can be seen rising into the air
and drifting across the Saga Plain. This is the largest hot air balloon event
in Asia and attracts participants from around the world. The festival event is
not only a celebration of hot air ballooning, it is also a serious competition
among the aeronauts.
Japan's passion for sakura cherry blossom viewing is well known.
Venues with an abundance of these beautiful trees often host cherry blossom
viewing festivals, arranging food stalls and sometimes even tea ceremonies or
live musical entertainment to delight the visiting crowds. Maizuru Park, the
site of Fukuoka's former castle, has over 1,000 cherry trees that it celebrates
in the Fukuoka Castle Cherry Blossom Festival. Mifuneyama Rakuen, a park in
Takeo city in Saga Prefecture, has 2,000 cherry trees and more than 200,000 azalea
bushes that are the focus of its Flower Festival from late March until early
May. The Saitobaru Burial Mounds on a plateau above the Miyazaki town of Saito,
are also home to about 2,000 cherry trees whose blossoms are illuminated at
night during the Saitobaru Flower Festival held in late March/early April.
Other small scale seasonal festivals can be found across the island
and are often the most fun when stumbled upon by chance. As just a few ideas of
events to keep in mind: the Dutch-themed amusement park Huis ten Bosch has
summer fireworks and winter illuminations, Mojiko's retro port buildings also
come to life with winter illuminations, and there are German-style Christmas
Markets held each December just outside Hakata and Nagasaki stations.
Kyushu has matsuri that represent the best of traditional Japanese
culture, matsuri that have moved with the times to combine the traditional and
the modern, and festivals that celebrate the seasons and more. At all of these
events, visitors are sure to be warmly welcomed to join and enjoy.