I don’t know about you but I am extremely jealous of the joyful festivals that seem to take place in so many animes. Form school sports and cultural fests to those beautiful looking summer festivals filled with goldfish scooping, fireworks and beautiful yukatas to solemn temple visits on new years. It’s not that I’m a particularly sociable or outdoorsey person. On paper, these events should be something I avoid at all costs yet whenever I see one, I wish I was there.

Sure, they’re probably romanticised. In person it’s probably hot and stuffy and you can’t really get to do anything because there’s so many people. From the top of my 5 feet I probably wouldn’t even be able to see the fireworks even on the highest shoes. I regularly sit in the stairs during movie festivals so I can see the screen. Wait how did this turn into me whining about my genetic failings?

Back to the festivals!

Tonkutsu Ramens
I wonder if his legs got cold

5) Hakata Gion Yamakasa (Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens ep 6)

The Gion Yamaska is a summer festival that takes place over the course of about two weeks. Essentially it consists of elaborate and very colourful floats that can weight up to a ton (called Yamakasa) and that are physically carried through the streets by participants. It’s a rockus festival which is actually pretty physically demanding and requires training.

In a way it’s like a mix between a marathon and a parade. As such you get to admire the physical feats of the people taking part, which are your fellow constituents and the fun and fanfare of a full-on parade. It seems like such a unique communal experience, especially if you actually go train to take part in it.   I can see why Banba was so excited by it. It seems like the sort of thing you have to do once and then annoy all your friends with lavish tales about it.

Also there’s those… uniforms. Just sayin.

They seem determined!

4) Summer festival (Haganai s1 ep 11)

I’m not gonna lie, 70% of my fascination with festivals is the food stalls. I know that most of them are meat but it’s the type of meat I use to love….Again back to my genetic failings. I just can’t get away from them today!

The Summer Festival featured in the first season of Haganai was fairly standard as far as they go. But it was Kodaka’s passion of takoyaki and the episodes instance on food that brought it to a whole new delicious level. I figure that if I should ever manage to attend one of those festivals this is going to be exactly my experience. Tummy ache and all. And boy am I sold!

I know, I know, I’m the only one who loved Endless Eight

3) O-bon festival (Haruhi – Endless Eight)

The Endless Eight Arc of the Melancholy of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of the most divisive arcs in anime I find. People tend to either love it or really hate it. I’m in the former group. In fact, I might be an extreme example as I absolutely adored it.  Anything remotely resembling Groundhog Day is my jam!

This said, the O-Bon festival that everyone had to absolutely attend in order to make summer “complete” started to take on an almost sinister and hopeless tone as the episodes wore on and loop continued to repeat itself. This idea of being trapped forever in idyllic youthful summer days perverted into a strange pseudo nightmare you are only faintly aware of gave a hole new meaning to the O-bon. Although we didn’t see them all, the kids attended that festival 15,532 times in a row. I only saw 8 of them but I loved them all!

and she ha dressed up and everything

2) New Year’s Festival (Noragami ep 10)

We never actually got to see the festival. The entire episode was spent following Yato and Yukine frantically trying to get to the festival and having to deal with one obstacles after the other. Whatever anxiety I have always manifests itself this way for. This fear of having to be somewhere and just never being able to get there for one reason or another and not being able to warn those waiting for me. As such this episode really resonated with me and I found myself desperately wishing they could just get to the festival in time.

Moreover, I found the idea of a literal god attending a new year’s festival just all kinds of delightful. How do fortunes work for a god of calamity? Would Yato try to hijack people’s prayers to other gods? Seems like a fantastic promotional opportunity for him! This entire idea was full of possibilities and I’m a little bummed we never got to see it okay out. Maybe in the next season (cough…cough)

beyound the boudary ep5
girls sure are cute at festivals

1.5) Nagatsuki City Lantern Festival (Beyond the Boundary Ep 5)

Every year in the fall the Montreal Botanical Gardens has a lantern festival. It’s one of the few public outdoor events I make a point to attend almost every time. There’s something timeless and stirringly beautiful about communing through the quiet and still night surrounded by colourful lanterns and magical creatures. If you have a chance to attend, I strongly recommend it. It’s a respite from the every day.

And this is exactly how it was portrayed in Beyond the Boundary “Chartreuse Light” episode (one day we need to discuss those episode titles). As the events of the show were ramping up to inevitable confrontation and chaos, isolated and frightened Mitsuki who feels compelled to put on a brave front, finally lets her guard down for just a minute and allows some lantern light to shine in. A beautiful relaxing episode that left a haunting wistful longing in me.

Natsume ep13
I would

1) Autumn festival (Natsume’s Book of Friends ep 13)

This is probably what a small town Japanese festival is like. Modest little stalls, a few games. A calm and slightly lazy afternoon. The autumn festival that closes off the first season of Natsume Yuujinchou is far from spectacular. It’s not even held in the evening so you don’t get any of that night time excitement. Neighborhood folks just quietly walk around in their regular clothes making polite conversation and maybe stopping for a snack.

Sure it doesn’t really hold the same type of artifice as the previous festivals but you know what it does have? Yokai! Lots of them! Enjoying the atmosphere alongside everyone else in mundane little ways. Natsume is a show that holds a special type of magic for me. I’ve always related to its unassuming tone and this festival was a perfect example. There’s no need for lavish extravagance. A good friend or two, great food, people getting together in the spirit of community and an entire world of wonders just beyond the shadows.

That’s probably what I see in the festivals. Ancient traditions of good times. Hundreds of years worth of fun. That has got to create some pleasant ghosts!

There you go. 5+1 festivals I would have attended if I just happened to be a series crossing anime character. Do you also like anime festivals? Do you have a favorite one?


23 thoughts

  1. Having actually been to some festivals in Japan, they are romantized a bit in anime, but they are still very fun in RL. Of course at over 6ft seeing where I’m going is a little easier in a crowd of Japanese people. Oh and the food is great love the food.

  2. I genuinely love summer and obon festivals in Japan, so I love them in anime as well – particularly those that take place in more rural/countryside locations like in Natsume Yuujinchou. (On the other hand, I could happily never go to another school sports festival again. I must have been to about a dozen by now and they’re all very samey… and nowhere near as fun when you’re the one helping with the actual setting up/putting away of all that equipment and whatnot.)

  3. Festivals are so ubiquitous in anime that I barely remember any of them, including this list (except for Haruhi Suzumiya, because that show gave me plenty of time to let it sink in).

    I really wish I could remember the festival in Natsume because it sounds like it deserves spot number one. I’m sure it’ll come back if I actually watch the episode (ep13 of season 1?).

    I think both Hanasaku Iroha and Tamayura had quite pretty festivals, but my memory is so spotty. Why can’t I remember festivals? My memory isn’t the best, but it seems especially bad at festivals. Why? It’s not like hate them.

      1. I don’t think so. I enjoy the episodes as much as any while I’m watching. It’s a mystery.

  4. Big surprise that I’d have also picked Natsume, as it is nice and quiet but still looks fun. Though, I will admit, I really like watching the Watanagashi Festival in Higurashi (probably just as well given how many times we see the kids enjoying the festival). It’s also got that small town kind of feel but seems to have a lot of history connected with it. If it wasn’t for all the death and disaster that follows it each time it would be a great festival.

  5. … Feel like going to the Botanical Garden this fall.

    As for festival in anime, I really like the one in Card Captor Sakura, when she catch the Glow Card in episode 18 and she transforms it in episode 67.

  6. Funny the only memorable festivals I can think of were all done by KyoAni. Besides Endless8 I immediately thought of the summer music festival in K-On, the fireworks festival in A Silent Voice (albeit not memorable for the happiest reasons), and both the Doll Festival and especially the school cultural festival in Hyouka (the only school festival I’ve ever seen that made me actually want to attend it). I guess their staff just know how to party, eh?

    1. Interesting conspiracy theory! Maybe it’s a super subtle way to ask for more vacation time!

  7. The Noragami episode is a strong choice, I loved it.

    I don’t know what it is about festivals that make them feel like such narrative milestones.

    1. You would figure it would quickly become a repetitve and worn out trope yet they are always fun!

  8. Jealous? YES!

    I really enjoy all kind of festival portrayed, literally all that has fireworks and also, the cultural festival with its events. Not many of them is available here so I’ve always wanted to experience it myself, with a couple of friends, family or loved one.

    I couldn’t think of much anime with festival right now except from ReLIFE that actually have these both festivals and really gives of the beautiful ambience. Thanks for the post though, I can really feel the positive vibe it brings!

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