Japan is a nation of undeniably fascinating culture, whether it’s literature, architecture, classical art, or food, this country’s rich historical roots give those willing to dive deep plenty to uncover. But its location at the edge of the ocean, means it can be difficult and expensive to get to.
But worry not! You can explore Japan without even leaving your city. Throughout the year organizations and cultural communities all over the USA come together to share and embrace Japanese culture, and you too can be a part of it. So if you’re based in the States or are planning a visit soon, here are the Japanese festivals and events in America you can enjoy in 2018.
Sakura Matsuri, Washington D.C.
The massive annual Japanese Sakura Festival in D.C. is by no means limited to one facet of Japanese culture. Whether you’re interested in modern Japanese life, food, history, or art you’ll be able to find something to keep you entertained here in this inclusive celebration of all things Japan. Run by the Japan-America Society of Washington, the event is scheduled for April 14, 2018: prime Sakura (cherry blossom) season. For more information check out sakuramatsuri.org.
Japan Festival, Houston
Running at the same time as the Sakura Matsuri in Washington (April 14-15, 2018) is the Japan Festival Houston. Set to align with the same spring time party season in Japan, this event is all about building a connection between the US and Japan. There are workshops, performances, food (of course), and more business focused exhibitors like the JET Alumni Association who can help you with the logistics of a life in Japan. If you’re in the area during mid-April this is one event you can't miss. Check out houstonjapanfest.org for all the details.
Japan Day @ Central Park, New York
Now clocking up its 11th year, Japan Day @ Central Park was founded in 2007 as a way for the Japanese community of New York to promote and instigate a richer, deeper understanding of Japanese culture in New York City. The event hosts a fun run, cherry tree planting, a number of family friendly activities, and of course a whole lot of delicious Japanese food. Scheduled to run in May this year, the organization has just started a crowd-funding campaign to assist with the running of the Japan Day NYC 2018 edition. Check it out here and donate at Go Fund Me.
Japan Fest, Chicago
The largest Japan showcase in the Midwest, the Chicago Japan Festival began in 1981 as a small festival by the Japanese American Association of Chicago hosted in the Chicago Botanic Garden. Since then it’s grown to epic proportions and is one of the biggest Japanese cultural events on the calendar. This year's festival will take place June 3-4 and will feature art and music performances, sporting demonstrations and plenty of food. A great way to spend a warm summer weekend. For info on the 2018 festival visit japanfest-chicago.org.
Cherry Blossom Festival, Denver
Now in its 46th year, the Denver Cherry Blossom Festival is a hugely popular celebration of Japanese heritage. From June 23-24 there will be stands and events covering all aspects of Japanese culture, including street food, taiko drumming, and ceramics. There will also be the opportunity to try your hand at some ikebana (flower arranging), or shodo (calligraphy) among other events. It should be great weather for it in the Denver summer, although that does mean there won't be any actual cherry blossoms, but you'll certainly be too busy to notice! Visit cherryblossomdenver.org to find out more!
July & August 2018
Nisei Week, Los Angeles
Running through the months of July and August, Nisei Week is an Los Angeles-based celebration of Japanese and Japanese American heritage. The Japanese Festival LA hosts a number of events including fashion shows, dance performances and a large closing ceremony party. With so many different events spread over different locations on different days it might be difficult to keep track of everything that’s going on, but head to niseiweek.org for all the information on the 2018 event.
Aki Matsuri, Albuquerque
Held in the fall, the Aki Matsuri is New Mexico’s annual Japanese festival, and it's a truly amazing mixing pot of cultures. Held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the event is run by the Japanese American Citizens League as a way to fully embrace New Mexico’s multicultural community. Featuring musical demonstrations, Japanese art, food, beer and sake tastings there’s something for all lovers of Japanese culture. It typically runs in the middle of the month, but stay tuned to the official Facebook page for more info on the 2018 event.
Japan Fest, New Orleans
The largest Japan showcase in the Gulf South, New Orleans’ Japan Fest has been running for over 20 years now and it shows no sign of slowing down. Hosted by the Japan Society of New Orleans and the New Orleans Museum of Art, the event is overflowing with fascinating cultural attractions and events, the festival features traditional dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, and tours of the museum’s Japanese art collection. For more info on the 2018 edition, stay tuned to noma.org.
FandangObon | Los Angeles
Running over a weekend in late October, the FandangObon festival is a celebration of art, culture and eco-awareness organized by the Japanese American Cultural and Community Centre alongside a handful of other partners. The event name is a hybrid of Mexican Fandango and Japanese Obon, so you know it’s going to be a fascinating celebration of cultural diversity. Bringing together the area’s Japanese, Mexican, and African-American communities into one big unifying group it’s a culturally inclusive event and one that’s fun for the whole family. For more info keep an eye on the JACCC site.
Oshogatsu, Los Angeles
In Japan the Oshogatsu (Japanese New Year) is arguably the biggest event on the social calendar. A time of reflection, celebration and well wishes for the forthcoming year, Oshogatsu is full of meaning and rich cultural significance to the people of Japan. Angelenos can get a taste of the traditions that make this time of year so special at the Oshogatsu, L.A. Try the special New Years meal osechi, make some soba noodles for good luck, have a go at calligraphy and find your rhythm taiko drumming. The event typically happens a few days before the New Year, but stay tuned to the JACCC site for all the information.
Do you know of any events or festivals that should be included? Let us know in the comments below!