Fun Festivals in Japan – Santera Mairi Matsuri in Hida Takayama
One of the truly great things about the Japanese is their love of festivals, known as Matsuri. Festivals in Japan abound for all reasons, seasons and occasions. These festivals are steeped in culture and lore, usually involve food and drink and almost always involve a special local aspect of Japan. More importantly, attending a matsuri is a great barrier-breaking opportunity to engage with and enjoy as the locals do.
On most of our trips we try to incorporate some local festival along the way. In 2015, we had the privilege of preparing an itinerary for a newly married couple. They were honeymooning in January and wanted a great overview of Japan. For them, we found the Santera Mairi Matsuri located in the picturesque rural town of Hida Takayama, nestled into the foothills of the Japanese Alps. Aside from its splendid old town, Hida Takayama is also famed for its regional version of Japanese “wagyu” beef known as Hida-Gyu and much favored by chefs throughout Japan.
The festival itself sees the town lit up by hundreds of snow candles and lanterns creating a picture postcard, dreamy backdrop against the winter snow. Officially named the “Santera Mairi” or “Three Temple Visit”, the festival is held annually on January 15th. Traditionally, it was originally used as an event for young men and women to meet. More recently, the event has become an important opportunity for a new year’s temple visit to wish for a good relationship for both married and unmarried couples. One of the most unusual and lovely aspect of this festival is that it takes place in the winter, near the Japanese Alps and so almost always provides a winter wonderland scene/atmosphere. Secondly, a large number of festival goers get dressed up in traditional Japanese wear, winter Kimono’s for the ladies and hakama for the men. And luckily, Kimono and traditional wear rentals are available and even encouraged for visitors.