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Japan has a number of 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.

Almost inevitably a girl wearing a kimono will break a strap in her sandal and will have to be carried by a guy she has a crush on.

In some series, the resident crossdressers will still wear the appropriate outfit of the other sex.

You often see the Goldfish Scooping Game and Kimodameshi at festivals. Sometimes a Bonfire Dance, known as the folk dance, is held in such festivals and it allows for Ship Tease between two characters.

See also School Festival. Compare Christmas Episode and A Fête Worse than Death.

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
  • August 15 — Bon Festival (the most famous of them all)
  • September 9 — Chrysanthemum Festival
  • November 15 — "7-5-3" Festival
  • Late December — Year-end Fair


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    Anime & Manga 
  • AIR uses flashbacks to festivals in the girls' backstories, and The Movie culminates in a summer festival.
  • In Assassination Classroom, the day before the beginning of the second semester, Koro-sensei and some of the Class-E students visit a summer fest. The kids, thanks to their assassination training, turn out to be far too skilled at the game booths. Hayami and Chiba in particular end up getting banned from the shooting range after practically robbing the stand of its prizes.
  • One chapter of Ayakashi Triangle has Matsuri's household observing Tsukimi, where people view and make an offering to the full moon in autumn. Suzu's presence causes ayakashi from the moon to actually visit—not to take her away, as Matsuri thought, just to eat the food.
  • Azumanga Daioh:
    • Azumanga Daioh 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 Big O features a Christmas episode in which the hero unsuccessfully battled a giant mutant Christmas tree called Demon Seed.
  • Black Lagoon: Rock and Revy attend a street festival towards the end of the second season.
  • Blue Exorcist:
    • The big school festival 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 Mephisto parachuting in to start the festival. It's so big and vibrant that just putting it under a School Festival heading doesn't quite fit. Plot wise, this is also when the first Wham Episode happens and thus the Festival ends on a sour note for the main cast.
    • The Movie 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 Blue Exorcist, the demon accidentally gets unsealed by Rin and the previous disaster almost happens again.
  • Blue Seed actually has a Festival Episode Grand Finale.
  • 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.
  • More than one murder in Case Closed takes place in the middle of festivals.
  • Genzo and Megumi spend most of the Cheeky Angel Festival Episode on the run from the police.
  • Chi's New Address has Chi visiting a festival with Tama.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: It turns out that Mimi's first visit with the new Digidestined team takes place during Golden Week, and when she, Yolei, and their Digimon defeat the Roachmon brothers, Digimon Kaiser Ken declares that his Golden Week has just become dull. The dub treated this day as an ordinary Saturday; call it a cultural translation.
  • Doki Doki! PreCure: In Episode 28, the Cures take Aguri and her friend Eru to a summer festival.
  • Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro: Episode 7 of the anime has Senpai waiting for Nagatoro to invite him to the festival, before eventually going on his own and running into Yoshi and Gamo-chan. They send Nagatoro a picture of him with a dog collar on, prompting her to run over and defend her claim on him. The two of them end up watching the fireworks together, but are too embarrassed by all the other couples making out to get close to each other.
  • One of the most important parts of Elfen Lied takes place in a festival of this kind. After finding Kouta hanging out with his cousin Yuka, Lucy starts her second gruesome killing rampage.
  • Free! has one. In other series, boys in festival episodes tend to not dress up however as this is a series that thrives on having a Cast Full of Pretty Boys Rei and Nagisa wear kimonos.
  • At the end of the first arc, Fushigi Yuugi features the fictional Stargazing Festival, which Miaka attends with Nuriko and Tasuki.
  • One chapter in Gakuen Babysitters has the Kashima siblings and Kamitani siblings go to a summer festival together.
  • Ghost in the Shell 2: 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... Mind Screwier. For starter, everything seems huge, including the statue/balloon/hologram of Guan Yu that's being paraded around town.
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka, 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.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • Part of the second episode (and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth...) of Season 2 takes place during the Obon festival and the group, among other things, plays with fireworks. Yuki buys a mask.
    • Also, the first episode happens on Tanabata (well, except the part Mikuru sends Kyon back in time with her).
  • Hayate the Combat Butler has a festival happening at Riza's house, the characters continually mention that it doesn't resemble a shrine festival.
  • In Hidamari Sketch, the Festival Episode has a backstory about Kitsune.
  • Higehiro: In Episode 8, Yoshida and Sayu go to a summer festival, where she uses the excuse of not getting lost to hold his hand.
  • Hitomi-chan Is Shy with Strangers: Chapter 30 has Hitomi, Yuu, and Kaoru go to a matsuri, and Hitomi catches Yuu's eye in her yukata.
  • Hyakunichikan!!: Chapters 31 and 32 have Shuuto, Aoki, Chiho, Kanami, and Tanaka going to a summer festival. The girls wear child-sized yukata. In Chapter 46, they all go to a fireworks festival with Masaki, Ishima, Komugi, and Hatayama, and everyone (except Tanaka) wears a yukata.
  • The iDOLM@STER: The first time the girls go on stage is during the Summer Festival at a rural village.
  • K-On!:
    • 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.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has the two-parter "I Can't Hear the Fireworks" that follows Kaguya's desire to see a fireworks show with her friends.
  • Kamichu! had a lot of festival episodes, most in Yurie's honour.
  • Karin has the typical school festival arc.
  • A summer festival is featured in the second Kasei Yakyoku OAV.
  • Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl:
    • The anime has a festival episode that serves to heighten the tension between the all female Love Triangle. 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.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, 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 game by the digital replica of Pence, but was never attended.
  • Both versions of Living for the Day After Tomorrow have one of these. They both advance the plot, but in slightly different ways.
  • Love Hina has a Festival Episode about two-thirds of the way through the initial series; the manga shows several.
  • Risa Koizumi first confesses her love to Atsushi Ootani while watching fireworks at a festival in Lovely★Complex.
  • Lucky Star:
    • Episode 5 features the characters going to a festival. Konata observes how if this was a Dating Sim it would trigger an Event Flag, 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.
  • The last Sound Stage of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's takes place in a Hanami Festival that nearly the entire cast attends.
  • In March Comes in Like a Lion, 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.
  • Mazinger Z: Episode 29 happens during a festival that The Hero Kouji and his friends were participating on. Unfortunately, the appearance of Mechanical Beast Grengus C3 put a damper on the festivities.
  • Mega Man: Upon a Star has Japanese holidays in episode 2, and the Obon festival in episode 3.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch uses one early on in the summer, and the manga has a few more, usually New Year's things.
  • Chapter 48 of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid had the cast attend a summer festival together, with all the dragons (except Ilulu) in kimonos. The anime also had an anime original one set during New Year's Eve.
  • Episode 12 of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun has the characters go to a festival, though Chiyo and Mikorin are the only ones who wear kimono. Nozaki and Hori make the excuse of getting references for art scenes to justify going, but end up with their respective love interests (Chiyo and Kashima).
  • My Bride is a Mermaid 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 Goldfish Scooping Game.
  • In My Girlfriend's Not Here Today, Yuni Asahina goes to a festival with her girlfriend Nanase Natsume. Yuni quickly gets upset because Nanase didn't wear a Yukata while Yuni did, Nanase doesn't call her by her first name in public but does call a clubmate by hers, and has an Indirect Kiss with said clubmate. The festival is thus less romantic and heartwarming than the norm for a romance manga, and culminates in Yuni giving a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Nanase that includes all her complaints about their relationship.
  • My-HiME subverts this somewhat, in that the "Festival" is something much, much darker.
  • The last episode of Natsume's Book of Friends revolves around a festival that the entire cast attends.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has both a festival episode (the summer festival) and a festival arc earlier. That arc lasted around 7 volumes.
  • Ouran High School Host Club 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).
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • The episode "The Ghost of Maiden's Peak".
    • And the Twinleaf Festival miniarc in Sinnoh.
    • And the Kanto festival in Unova, attended by Ash, his friends, and N.
  • Ranma ½:
    • When Ranma is stuck in female form during the "Cat's Tongue Shiatsu" arc, a summer festival both helps cheer him up and lets him discover a way to train a technique he needed to learn.
    • One chapter has a Festival Episode involving a panda doodle with a crush on Ranma.
  • The "7-5-3"-festival is referenced in the song played during Kozue's duel in Revolutionary Girl Utena.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • The 90s anime includes a festival organized by Rei in the second season, as well as a Sakura Festival episode in the third season, which is also where Chibi-Usa returns as Sailor Chibi Moon. In a later episode, there is a Lantern Floating Festival, probably.
    • In the manga, the Tanabata is the focus for one side story.
  • Sakura Wars:
    • Early on in the first OVA series, the multinational cast wear kimonos during a local festival.
    • In the fourth episode of Sakura Wars the Animation, there is a spring festival held at Shinonome Shrine, where Hatsuho serves as its local shrine maiden.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei:
    • The cast visits a festival 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 "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.
  • Episode 19 of Sgt. Frog 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 turtle-catching challenge. It even featured a new ending credits sequence with a new song, "Pekopon Invasion Ondo"
  • A Silent Voice has a cute festival chapter that turns out to be a Wham Episode. Shouko decides to kill herself afterwards, only for Shouya to save her. He however ends up in a coma when he falls instead of her.
  • The closing credits for the last episode of the first season of Squid Girl sees some of the characters at a Bon festival for a few seconds.
  • Episode 8 of the Strawberry Marshmallow 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.
  • The Tamagotchi episode "Let's Celebrate! Tama-Beans Festival" has the characters celebrating a festival similar to the Japanese holiday of Setsubun, where those celebrating the festival throw beans to ceremonially expel evil spirits from their house.
  • There's a horror manga titled Tanabata No Kuni which involves the traditional festival of a Town with a Dark Secret.
  • Episode 7 of Tenchi Universe, which included Ryoko manning a Goldfish Scooping Game - 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.
  • This Ugly Yet Beautiful World has an Obon festival episode, to be more precise. It's made plot relevant since it is during this festival which people honor the deceased that Hikari first comes to understand death.
  • In Chapter 23 (Episode 8 in the anime) of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!, Shinichi and Hana go to a festival where he embarrasses her by complimenting her too much. She ends up giving him a concussion with her purse.
  • Episode 5 of Washio Sumi Chapter manages to be both a sad funeral episode and a fluffy festival episode. After Gin's funeral, Washio and Sonoko go relax during a festival.
  • Yamazaki is asked to go to a festival by a girl in his school in Welcome to the NHK. 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.
  • In Chapter 34 of Why the Hell Are You Here, Teacher!?, Tanaka and Tachibana are both at a New Year's festival making wishes. They end up winning a pair of tickets to Ishigaki Island in a raffle.
  • Yotsuba&! features the eponymous Yotsuba learning about display fireworks at one of these; she also plays the Goldfish Scooping Game and wears a yukata that is just so goddamn Moe it's mind-breaking.
    • In a later festival episode for a local shrine, Yotsuba is happy in a happi as she helps pull a portable shrine through the streets.
  • Episode 5 of You and Me takes place during a festival. Chizuru is the only one to wear a kimono.

    Fan Works 
  • The Child of Love: In episode 5 Shinji and Asuka go to Obon festival. They wear kimono, spend the afternoon together, hang out with their friends in the local arcade and watch fireworks together. As they are doing the latter activity they have a serious talk, open up and get together officially.
  • Dirty Sympathy: the Wright Anything Agency and Klavier visit the Obon Festival run by the Kitakis because Apollo wanted to spend time with Klavier when it's not an emergency.
  • Princess of Konoha starts with six-year-old Naruto going to a festival for the first time. It celebrates the defeat of the Nine-Tailed Fox and is also on his birthday.
  • In Chapter 2 of SlifofinaDragon's Sengoku Basara fanfic Finally Home (starting off in Part 4), there is a festival held in a village that's boarded on Chosokabe Motochika's ship; the Fugaku.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Almost all Super Sentai series have an episode like this (usually for New Year or Tanabata).

  • There is no GATE; we did not fight there: The Festival mini-turn, accompanied by the *The Tyrant's Fall Festival* features Kytheus and his friends enjoying the colorful celebrations following the defeat of the Hardy Beast, the Tyrant. Helen and Victoria, two of the possible marriage candidates for Kytheus, also attend the celebrations to grow more used to Rhavenfell's atmosphere and closer to Kytheus.

    Video Games 
  • In Ensemble Stars! there are a number of holidays in which every unit participates, making them essentially annual events which every unit will get one for eventually. Aside from Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's, and White Day, they also have a number of festivals: the Cultural Festival which occurs early in the school year, Tanabata which occurs in July, and the Sports Festival which happens in Summer. Events centering on other events such as New Years also exist, but aren't a fixed part of the event schedule and so don't happen every year.
  • The New Year story events of Granblue Fantasy feature characters based on the Zodiac signs, as well as Kimono / Yukata outfits for certain characters.
  • One of the early levels in Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan takes place at a matsuri, and involves a dude challenging his crush's father to a mikoshi race.
  • Persona: Taking place in the year in the life of the protagonists, they each have a Summer Festival.
    • The Tanabata Festival is responsible for the entire plot of Persona 2: Innocent Sin, once the roots of the Masquerade are revealed.
    • The male protagonist of Persona 3 has a selection from his school love interests, Portable has the female protagonist choose from her fellow members of SEES.
    • Persona 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.
    • Persona 5 has the group heading to a fireworks festival, unfortunately it doesn't last long when it gets cancelled due to a rainout.

    Visual Novels 
  • Amnesia: Memories plays with this trope. There's always a fireworks festival going on during the first half of August, but several routes downplay the location itself. The heroine doesn't make it to the festival location itself in Shin's and Ikki's routes, and the fireworks don't occur in Kent's route because of bad weather.
  • Double Homework has a rare non-Japanese example. The protagonist and Henry go to comicon together, and they find Lauren working there, complete with a kimono. They have a private party together afterward... and the protagonist starts to realize something weird about Lauren.
  • Subversion: The sinister Watanagashi festival in Higurashi: When They Cry is the central event in The Rashomon style story, told from a number of different angles that end in brutal murders.
  • Shizune's route in Katawa Shoujo features her, Misha and Hisao attending Tanabata. At the end, Hisao officially asks Shizune out.
  • Princess Evangile has the Bon Festival as a plot point for both the main story and fan disc routes, where Masaya and his chosen love interest usually begin dating one another.

    Web Animation 
  • The finale to Neko Sugar Girls has a portion that takes place in a festival. It's mainly there to check off the "anime cliches" quota and to see everyone in kimonos but it also serves as one of the last positive things to happen to Raku before she dies.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, 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.
  • The Smurfs (1981): The planning for the Spring Day Pageant is in focus in the anti-drug episode "Lure Of the Orb."