How to Enjoy Some of Japan’s Most Amazing Festivals Without Getting off Your Couch

As summer changes to autumn, the festival season takes on a greater fervor. Local shrines across the nation send out their very best mikoshi (portable shrine) carriers and matsuri revelers to the streets in celebration and hope for good crops. There are an estimated 600,000 different festivals per year in Japan and there’s no way you could visit them all. In fact, sometimes you might not want to. For those when you’d prefer to see others reveling than revel yourself, local TV station Tokyo MX and DyDo DRINCO have joined forces to offer Tokyo residents — and anyone with an internet connection anywhere — the chance to watch some festivals from the comfort of their own homes. Every Saturday in September, Tokyo MX will show footage from festivals across Japan.

Scheduled for this season are:

Sanuki Toyohama Chousa Matsuri

Let it never be said that locals in Toyohama, a town in Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku Island, don’t know how to party. This raucous festival has about twenty-odd floats called chousa, which are used to carry large taiko drums. The floats themselves are five meters in height and weigh about two tons. They are carried across town as various teams compete against each other in a test of strength, stamina, and loud cheers. When night falls, the soft light of paper lanterns provides a warm glow, perfect for dance performances. Footage is from the 2016 festival and will be on air September 9, 12-12:55pm on Tokyo MX.

For a preview of what the festival is like:

If you want to attend the real event, this year’s festival is October 6-8. Find more info here.

Hamamatsu Maisaka Odaiko Matsuri

You want drums? Hamamatsu’s Kisa Shrine has plenty, and they’re huge to boot! In this spectacular festival that is held in the hopes of pulling in bountiful fish hauls, large taiko – some measuring up to 2.5 meters in diameter – are pulled 1.3 kilometers across town from the main shrine to Inariyama and then back again. Young men use one-meter-long drum sticks to beat the massive drums, often until their cloth-wrapped hands are soaked in blood. This festival can be viewed on Tokyo MX on September 16, at 12-12:55pm.

For those who want a taste of the real thing, this year’s event will take place November 11-12. For more info, see Kisa Shrine’s website.

Sakura Autumn Festival

Sakura City in Chiba Prefecture boasts large floats of a different type. Instead of being carried around, these floats are several meters tall and are pulled through town as people riding them play instruments and dance. Dashi floats (floats with dolls at the very top representing either gods, historical or mythological figures), as well as omikisho (a special term for floats without dashi dolls used in Sakura), and mikoshi make their way across this former castle town. Makata Shrine’s mikoshi dates back to the Edo period and is the largest of its kind in Chiba Prefecture. Watch this wonderful display from 2016 on September 23, at 12-12:55pm on Tokyo MX.

The 2017 Sakura Autumn festival will take place October 12-14. For more information, see the official festival website.

Moro no Yabusame Festival

Held twice a year in both spring and autumn at Izumoiwai Shrine in Saitama, this festival demands skill, dexterity, and horsemanship from its participants. Archers on horseback have to hit targets as they gallop past at full speed. The purpose of the festival is to pray for peace in the region. While horseback archery festivals are held in many places around Japan, Moroyama’s version is special as the participants are only around 15 years old. Unlike the skilled adult archers of Meiji Jingumae, the Moroyama horsemen are endearing as they sometimes hit, and sometimes miss their targets. The 2016 edition of this festival will be on air September 30, 12-12:55pm.

This year’s autumnal event will take place November 3. More info at Moroyama City’s homepage.

Special Screening: Fukagawa Hachiman Festival

As if that wasn’t enough, there will be a special screening of this year’s Fukagawa Hachiman Festival as well. One of the three great festivals of Edo, its main event is only held every three years. Nicknamed the water-throwing festival, this wet and wild adventure features the Hachimangu imperial carriage, 120 town mikoshi, and 50 grand mikoshi, making it one of the largest festivals of its kind in Tokyo. If you missed it earlier this year, you’ll have another chance to see it on screen. It will be aired on Sunday, September 17, at 5pm on Tokyo MX.

To watch any of these screenings online either tune in to the Tokyo MX airplayer page, or download their app.

Main image: Nakashi, via Flickr under CC

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