Japan has a number of [[JapaneseHolidays traditional holidays]] which are celebrated with festivals (''matsuri'') that bear a slight resemblance to American fairs and carnivals (only with a distinctly Asian flavor, of course). Most ''matsuri'' are based near or on the grounds of a local shrine, having grown out of local religious traditions -- not that it necessarily shows all that much in the modern form.

In anime set in Japan (or in locations with a strong Japanese influence), it's common to have at least one episode featuring one of these festivals. It takes the cast out of their usual situation/locale and puts them in a new one, which usually provides insights and new angles on them. The relaxed yet structured atmosphere of the traditional festival -- and the opportunities it provides -- can also prompt the evolution of relationships which might otherwise be stalled or failing. And in modern settings, it's an excuse to get the characters -- even foreigners -- out of modern "Western-style" clothing and into proper kimono and geta, which has a strong appeal to a fair-sized fraction of the Japanese audience.

In some series the resident [[WholesomeCrossdresser crossdressers]] will still wear the appropriate outfit of the other sex.

You often see the GoldfishScoopingGame and {{Kimodameshi}} at festivals.

See also SchoolFestival. Compare ChristmasEpisode and AFeteWorseThanDeath.

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!!Some of the festivals you're likely to see in anime:

* December 31-January 1st -- New Year's Eve and Day
* March 3rd -- The Doll Festival
* (variable, April) -- Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Festival ("Hanami", literally, flower viewing)
* End of April-Beginning of May -- "Golden Week", when a number of national holidays occur, including Children's Day (May 5th), the Iris Festival, the Tango Festival, Greenery Day and the Constitution Memorial Day
* July 7 -- Weaver Fest, also called the Star Festival and {{Tanabata}}
* July 15 or 16 -- Toro Nagashi, [=AKA=] Lantern Floating Day
* September 9 -- Chrysanthemum Festival
* November 15 -- "7-5-3" Festival
* Late December -- Year-end Fair

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!!Examples:
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[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''LightNovel/ShakuganNoShana''. [[MemeticMutation "It's a school festival. It's a festival organized by the school."]]
* ''Manga/SailorMoon'' includes a festival organized by Rei in the second season, as well as a Sakura Festival episode. In a later episode, there is a Lantern Floating Festival, probably. Finally, in the manga, the Tanabata is the focus for one side story.
* ''Manga/LoveHina'' has a Festival Episode about two-thirds of the way through the initial series; the manga shows several.
* ''Anime/MazingerZ'': Episode 29 happens during a festival that TheHero Kouji and his friends were participating on. Unfortunately, the appearance of [[{{Robeast}} Mechanical Beast Grengus C3]] put a damper on the festivities.
* A festival helps cheer up Ranma when he is stuck in female form during the "Cat's Tongue Shiatsu" arc of ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf''.
** The anime has a Festival Episode involving a panda doodle with a crush on Ranma.
* ''SakuraWars'' puts its multinational cast all in kimono for a festival early on in the first [=OVA=] series.
* ''Anime/MaiHime'' subverts this somewhat, in that the "Festival" is something much, much darker.
* Genzo and Megumi spend most of the ''Manga/CheekyAngel'' Festival Episode on the run from the police.
* ''Manga/BlueSeed'' actually has a Festival Episode GrandFinale.
* Subversion: The [[AFeteWorseThanDeath sinister Watanagashi festival]] in ''VisualNovel/HigurashiWhenTheyCry'' is the central event in TheRashomon style story, told from a number of different angles that end in brutal murders.
* ''Anime/{{Kamichu}}!'' had a lot of festival episodes, most in Yurie's honour.
* ''Anime/TheBigO'' features a Christmas episode in which the hero unsuccessfully battled a giant mutant Christmas tree called Demon Seed.
* One of the most important parts of ''Manga/ElfenLied'' takes place in a festival of this kind. [[spoiler:After finding Kouta hanging out with his cousin Yuka, Lucy starts her second gruesome killing rampage.]]
* ''VisualNovel/{{AIR}}'' uses flashbacks to festivals in the girls' backstories, and TheMovie culminates in a summer festival.
* ''Manga/MermaidMelodyPichiPichiPitch'' uses one early on in the summer, and the manga has a few more, usually New Year's things.
* Episode 8 of the ''Manga/StrawberryMarshmallow'' anime and episode 27 of the manga have Nobue escort the four little girls at the summer festival. In both, Ana is lacking a yukata, so Nobue "borrows" one off of Miu, who ends up wearing Nobue's old one.
* Episode 5 of ''Manga/LuckyStar'' features the characters going to a festival. Konata observes how if this was a DatingSim it would trigger an EventFlag, seeing as they are wearing yukata and outdoors. Kagami also manages to scoop a goldfish.
** The "7-5-3" is mentioned by Kagami when she says that Konata wearing a long-sleeved kimono to her coming-of-age ceremony would look like she's celebrating ''that'', instead.
** Also, Golden Week is mentioned; Tsukasa and Konata fritter it away instead of finishing homework, while Kagami is almost done by the time it's almost over. And in the OVA, while the Hiiragis and Konata go off on vacation, Kuroi-sensei gains several levels in an MMORPG...
** The Izumis do their first shrine visit of the year (following a day at Comiket that was quite harrowing for the twins, who have to work as ''miko'' at the shrine that evening) and draw opposite fortunes. Of course, one of Soujirou's reasons for going was to see the ''miko''...
** And the four go for ''Hanami'', where they discuss the disparity between what you feel like you should be able to wear and the reality, and Kagami's plump goldfish; Konata asks Kagami if she's going to scoop up a skinnier replacement (she didn't realize, as she was thinking, that she was facing the appropriate booth for it).
** And again; but first, when Konata wants to show exchange student Patricia some Japanese culture, she calls Miyuki, who says they just put away their princess dolls, but suggests inviting her to a flower-viewing party. Patricia's mind automatically goes to the drinking and eating aspect.
* Risa Koizumi first confesses her love to Atsushi Ootani while watching fireworks at a festival in ''LovelyComplex''.
* The "7-5-3"-festival is referenced in the song played during Kozue's duel in ''Anime/RevolutionaryGirlUtena''.
* ''Manga/{{Yotsuba}}'' features the eponymous Yotsuba learning about display fireworks at one of these; she also plays the GoldfishScoopingGame and wears a yutaka that is just so goddamn {{Moe}} it's mind-breaking.
** In a later festival episode for a local shrine, Yotsuba is happy in a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happi happi]] as she helps pull a portable shrine through the streets.
* ''Anime/ThisUglyYetBeautifulWorld'' Obon festival, to be more precise. Made plot festival since it is during this festival which people honor the deceased that Hikari first comes to understand death.
* ''Manga/AzumangaDaioh'' sends the girls to a summer festival, and highlights that out of the 8 of them, only ''two'' actually knew how to put a kimono on. And those two aren't the teachers who were along. One of the few times goldfish scooping isn't shown (although they talk about it). They do see a turtle game of some sort; Osaka asks if a turtle's ''really'' needed.
** Also, they go for their first shrine visit of the year, during which Chiyo makes a special prayer for all her friends to pass, and Tomo draws a bad fortune. Later, Yukari reveals that the shrine owner's son didn't get into college.
* The [[AllThereInTheManual last Sound Stage]] of ''MagicalGirlLyricalNanoha A's'' takes place in a Hanami Festival that nearly the entire cast attends.
* ''Manga/KashimashiGirlMeetsGirl'' has a festival episode that serves to heighten the tension between the [[SchoolGirlLesbians all female]] LoveTriangle. Bonus points for having the whole cast wearing yutakas, even the tomboyish girl.
** They have had quite a few different summer festival chapters in the manga. However,none of these festivals really do anything to the hardly visible tension in the manga.
* The last episode of ''Manga/NatsumesBookOfFriends'' revolves around a festival that the entire cast attends.
* In ''Manga/HidamariSketch'', the Festival Episode has a backstory about {{Kitsune}}.
* Yamazaki is asked to go to a festival by a girl in his school in ''Anime/WelcomeToTheNHK''. He initially dismisses it, due to a childhood memory of seeing a girl he liked with another boy at a festival, but in the end, ends up going.
* The cast visits a festival in ''Manga/SayonaraZetsubouSensei'', and meet a group of people with a penchant for hyping anything. They end up taking several students on platforms and chanting their prominent features. Including "[[BerserkButton Normal]]" for Nami.
** There have actually been numerous festival episodes, including a Tanabata episode in which Kafuka convinces everyone that the wishes they hang on bamboo trees will come true in the next life. (Which ends predictably for Nozomu). Another episode has aliens invade during a festival, forcing a Giant, Kimono-Clad Chiri to fight them off.
* ''Manga/DamekkoDoubutsu'' had one of these.
* ''Manga/NininGaShinobuden'' had one of these in episode 5.
* ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'' has both a festival episode (the summer festival) and a [[UpToEleven festival ''arc'' earlier.]]
** That ''arc'' lasted around [[SerialEscalation 7 volumes]].
* Part of the second episode ([[GroundhogDayLoop and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth...]]) of ''LightNovel/HaruhiSuzumiya'' Season 2 takes place during the O-Bon festival and the group, among other things, plays with fireworks. Yuki [[ChekhovsGun buys a mask]].
** Also, the first episode happens in Tanabata time (well, except the part Mikuru sends Kyon back in time with her).
* Both versions of ''Manga/AsatteNoHoukou'' have one of these. They both advance the plot, but in slightly different ways.
* The ''{{Anime/Pokemon}}'' episode "The Ghost of Maiden's Peak".
** And the Twinleaf Festival miniarc in Sinnoh.
** And the Kanto festival in Unova.
* At the end of the first arc, ''Manga/FushigiYuugi'' features the fictional Stargazing Festival, which Miaka attends with Nuriko and Tasuki.
* ''Manga/BlackLagoon'': Rock and Revy attend a street festival towards the end of the second season.
* ''{{Karin}}'' has the typical school festival arc.
* ''Anime/{{Canaan}}'' begins its first episode with a variation of this trope. As the show opens up in Shanghai, the festival has a distinctly Chinese flavour.
* ''Manga/HayateTheCombatButler'' has a festival happening at Riza's house, the characters continually mention that it doesn't resemble a shrine festival.
* Episode 19 of ''Manga/SgtFrog'' has the frog invaders running a series of stalls as part of their latest scheme to raise invasion funds, and Natsumi getting them to leave by meeting their [[GoldfishScoopingGame turtle-catching]] [[CookingDuel challenge]]. It even featured a [[SpecialEditionTitle new ending credits sequence]] with a new song, "Pekopon Invasion {{Ondo}}"
* ''Manga/OuranHighSchoolHostClub'' has a festival chapter in the manga. A few chapters prior to this a new female character named Yasamura Mei was introduced. The boys, Haruhi, and Mei attend a local summer festival in Haruhi's area and all are wearing proper yukata. Much to the boys' delight, Haruhi was wearing an exceptionally beautiful yukata made by Mei (who was more than happy to brag about how well it turned out).
* In ''Manga/GreatTeacherOnizuka'', upon finding that a matsuri is going on at a local temple, Anko suggests to Noboru that they check it out. She uses it as an excuse to change into her yukata and spend the evening with him without actually calling it a date.
* ''Manga/MyBrideIsAMermaid'' has one of these early on; with the added twist that San's family has taken over most of the booths with the intent of killing Nagasumi, using such methods as putting a shark in the GoldfishScoopingGame.
* There's a horror manga titled ''Tanabata no Kuni'' which involves the traditional festival of a TownWithADarkSecret.
* [[ChisSweetHome Chi's New Address]] has Chi visiting a festival with [[CoolBigSis Tama]].
* Almost all ''SuperSentai'' series have an episode like this (usually for New Year or Tanabata).
* Episode 7 of ''TenchiUniverse'', which included Ryoko manning a GoldfishScoopingGame - with fish the size of minivans - and Washu testing out a fun house that lead to a variety of dangerous landscapes, including a field of crystal and the surface of a star.
* ''Anime/GhostInTheShell: Innocence'' has Batou going into New Port City, which ''might'' be located in China (it has very distinct Chinese atmosphere). And a festival/carnival is going on, it's like something you can expect in local chinatown during certain time, but... [[MindScrew Mind Screwier]]. For starter, everything seems HUGE, including the statue/balloon/hologram of [[RomanceOfTheThreeKingdoms Guan Yu]] that's being paraded around town.
* ''[[Anime/TheIdolmaster THE iDOLM@STER]]'' - The first time the girls go on stage is during the Summer Festival at a rural village.
* The closing credits for the last episode of the first season of ''Manga/ShinryakuIkaMusume'' sees some of the characters at a Bon festival for a few seconds.
* In ''Manga/KOn'':
** The second and third years, the girls have a New Year's party at the Hirasawa residence. It matters not that the one for their third year was unplanned; Ui was just as prepared.
** For their first and second years, they make their first shrine visit for each. The first year, Ritsu tricks Mio into dressing in a lovely kimono, while Tsumugi manages to come in normal clothes. These roles are reversed the next year. Also, for the second year, Ritsu receives New Year's cards from the others, and decides to make hers into substitute ''omikuji''.
* A summer festival is featured in the second ''Manga/KaseiYakyoku'' OAV.
* Shizune's route in ''KatawaShoujo'' features her, Misha and Hisao attending Tanabata. [[spoiler:At the end, Hisao officially asks Shizune out.]]
* More than one murder in ''Manga/DetectiveConan'' takes place in the middle of festivals.
* One chapter in ''Manga/GakuenBabysitters'' has the Kashima siblings and Kamitani siblings go to a summer festival together.
* In ''Manga/SangatsuNoLion'', one story arc takes place during the three-day Obon Festival, where the central focus is on how the Kawamoto are coping with the death of their parents as they pay their respects and reminisce.
* In ''Manga/KingdomHeartsII'', Sora and his friends attend an end-of-summer festival in Twilight Town just after waking up from their year-long sleep. It's here where they meet Hayner and his friends.
** The festival was also mentioned in the [[VideoGame/KingdomHeartsII game]] by [[spoiler: the digital replica of]] Pence, but was never attended.
* In ''Manga/BlueExorcist'' the big school festiva that everyone gets dragged into becomes important briefly. And when the word big is used it means '''big''' with big businesses take part, lots of big balloons, and a concert involved. And [[LargeHam Mephisto parachuting in to start the festival]]. It's so big and vibrant that just putting it under a SchoolFestival heading doesn't quite fit. Plot wise, this is also when the first WhamEpisode happens and thus the Festival ends on a sour note for the main cast.
** TheMovie also centres on a festival that only comes around every 11 years and celebrates the legend of the sealing of a demon long ago that destroyed a village. This being [[DemonSlaying Blue]] [[AllMythsAreTrue Exorcist]], the demon accidentally gets unsealed by Rin and the previous disaster almost happens again.
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[[folder: Fanworks]]
* ''Fanfiction/DirtySympathy'': the Wright Anything Agency and Klavier visit the Obon Festival run by the [[{{Yakuza}} Kitakis]] because Apollo wanted to spend time with Klavier when it's not an emergency.
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[[folder: Video Games]]
* One of the early levels in ''OsuTatakaeOuendan'' takes place at a ''matsuri'', and involves a dude challenging his crush's father to a ''mikoshi'' race.
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'' and ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'', taking place in the year in the life in the protagonists, has a Summer Festival. It's nearby the local shrine and you can choose who to hang out with. The male protagonist of ''3'' has a selection from his school love interests, ''Portable'' has the female protagonist choose from her fellow members of SEES. ''4'' has a notable example in that the entire Investigation Team (plus Nanako and Dojima) have a day to themselves and then a day for the protagonist's school friends.
** Really, the Tanabata Festival is responsible for the entire plot of ''[[VideoGame/{{Persona 2}} Persona 2 Innocent Sin]]'', once the roots of the Masquerade are revealed.
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[[folder: Western Animation]]
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', the protagonists briefly attend a cultural Fire Nation festival. The festival itself was primarily based on Chinese New Year festivities and the masks that were worn by the characters were based on Kabuki theater. They also saw a children's puppet show of Fire Lord Ozai setting an Earthbender on fire.
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