Various festivals can be seen throughout a year in Japan. Knowing about one city does not mean that one knows the whole Japan. From one place to another, one can see local characteristics that are unique to that region and see the spirit of people who live there. Taking a look at the festivals will take you back to the ancient time and may give you some understanding in diverse Japanese culture.
Many festivals derive from ancient religious and folk beliefs. The Japanese religion, shinto, was a polytheistic faith which held that natural phenomenon such as mountains, streams and fields, contained deities or spirits. Some festivals are rooted in Buddhism. One festival started as early as the 9th century and has been continued till today. One year after another, the tradition is succeeded from one generation to the next. Festivals are part of people's lives and coexsist with busy lifestyles of the Japanese people today. Festivals are way to be in touch with the ancient time and away from the busy everyday life, too.
Since most people were farmers long ago, most of the festivals are related in some way to crops, especially the rice crop, and the changing of the seasons.
In spring, the Japanese prayed for a good growing season and a healthy crop. The summer months saw festivals intended to protect the growing plants from natural disasters such as typhoons. Fall celebrations were in honor of the harvest. Winter was considered the holiest of the year.
Many festivals are elaborate affairs involving fireworks, dances, play acting, wrestling, and parades with floats weighing several tons. Dancing was usually an important part of a festival because the people believed evil spirits would be attracted to the noise and drums, get caught up, and be driven away.
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