We like the sound of January in Japan. Known as mutsuki – the ‘month of harmony’, it’s a month and a new years resolution rolled into one! Here’s a list of the festivals and events happening around this time.
January 3 – Tamaseseri (Ball-Catching Festival) – Fukuoka
Men wearing only loincloths scramble for an 8kg beach-ball-sized treasure ball (takara-no-tama), which is believe to bring good fortune to the person who can lift it over his head. To make things especially cold and difficult, the men are sprayed continuously with water.
January 6 – Dezome-shiki (New Year’s Parade of Firemen) – Tokyo
Organized by the Tokyo Fire Department, this event is held to pray for a safe year. Over 100 fire engines and helicopters are part of the parade, which includes fire fighting demos and breathtaking acrobatic ladder stunts.
4th Saturday in January – Yamayaki (Grass Burning on Mt. Wakakusayama) – Nara
Watch as an entire hill is set alight in this traditional New Years festival held each year in Nara. The festival commemorates the fact that Mt. Wakakusayama was set ablaze during a centuries old dispute over temple boundaries.
Sunday closest to January 15 – Toh-shiya (Archery Contest) – Kyoto
This traditional event from the 12th century takes place in the same temple and in the same manner as it did centuries before. Watched Japan’s most skilled archers and young women in their best kimonos battle it out at the Sanjusangen-do Temple.
January 17 – Bonden-sai (Bonden Festival) – Akita City
In order to be blessed with divine powers for the New Year contestants must be the first to reach the sacred mountain carrying their bonden (a sacred wand). Watch the struggle and the ‘bonden fighting’ to be the first to reach the shrine on Mt. Taiheizan (the symbol of Akita City).