If ever there was proof that the Japanese have a well founded sense of community spirit it is the existence of festivals.
When participating, one cannot help but feel a little envious at the down-to-earth, casual manner in which the Japanese attend them.
As almost each shrine and temple has its own festival, there are literally hundreds to attend each year and with the processions through the streets and the food, games and toy stalls they make for an enjoyable day out.
Jidai Matsuri   Introduced in 1895 as a way of acknowleding Kyoto's induction as the new capital exactly 1100 years earlier, this annual festival is one of Kyoto's largest with as many as 150,000 people lining the streets to witness it. Starting from the Imperial Palace and ending at the Heian Shrine, it depicts the history of Japan between the Heian era to the Meiji Era.
Sapporo Snow Festival    Held annually in early February, this is a week long festival that is perhaps the most unique in all of Japan. Thanks to a group of 6 high school students who created six snow sculptures in Odori Park in the winter of 1950, it was a trend that caught on quickly and was well established by 1955 when even the National Self Defence Force started to participate. Having 3 sites in Odori Park, Makomanai and Suskino, this event attracts 2 million visitors every year and is a must see.
Takayama MatsuriHeld in both Spring and Autumn, meticulously crafted floats are escorted through the town by people wearing edo-period style clothing. This festival is a way of placating the 'god of plague'.
Sanja MatsuriHeld in the middle of May at the famous Asakusa shrine, this is one of Tokyo's 3 largest festivals. The highlight is when the 'Mikoshi' (shrines carrying deities) are escorted through the streets above the sounds of the cheering spectators. Renowned for being a 'wild' festival it may proove to be an interesting experience.