Finding Events in Japan
Japan has a long and storied history with many traditions, local events, community activities, active support of arts, facilities for entertainment and sites of natural beauty.
Finding and accessing these events has become easier than ever in the age of information.
There are many sources of information, navigating these sources can pose a challenge.
Collecting, mapping, photographing and researching these events is the primary function of this blog. To do so, information is gathered from a number of sites; I recommend each of these highly and the sidebar of this blog (the desktop version) has links to several of these online sources.
Most of these information sources are specialized or represent specific interests. When looking for information about events, the best source of information would be to go directly to the people who organize the individual events as schedules may change, weather conditions may force events to cancel or be delayed, events may cease to function due to declines in resources or special considerations. Information consolidating sites such as this may carry information about festivals that have ceased or changed venues.
This post will look at several sources of information for finding events in the Kansai region of Japan; train companies, social networks, print media, organizing groups, community centers, websites, event facilities and others.
Train Company Materials
In order to encourage people to ride the rails and explore the country. These publications tend to limit their coverage to only places that are accessible via their train lines, or they will suggest their own train routes while competitors routes offer easier/cheaper/faster access to event sites.
- Nishi Navi. This is a free newspaper that you see at JR stations served by JR (Japan Railways) West. The back cover of the newspaper offers a calendar with sightseeing offerings for every day. Many of these events are museum exhibits but this is a great way to get a sense of events that are available. The information is only printed in Japanese. Looking inside the newspaper you can see a brief description of some of the events and lots of information about resorts, local foods, travel packages, luxury trains and major attractions in far off areas of Japan. Along with the event descriptions the paper lists a contact phone number for most events but no URLs for internet information. http://nishinavi.jp/
- K-Press News. This is a free newspaper from the Keihan train company. The offerings are far fewer than JR. The Keihan line is much more limited than JR, but as the line runs through Kyoto this is a good source of information about traditional events in Japan's old capital. http://www.okeihan.net/k-press/
- The Kintetsu train company has posters at many of their stations which display a calendar with local events. The Kintetsu company serves many rural sections of Kansai so you can find small and remote festivities on these posters. As the Kintetsu lines lead into the countryside you can also see calendars which advise visitors on the forecasts for the blooming schedule of flowering plants. The posters are only in Japanese and usually have small print, so they are easy to miss. The company has a website that has some English information for tourists: http://www.kintetsu.co.jp/foreign/english/sightseeing/
The internet allows for event organizers to share their events and for individuals to share this information and invite friends.
- Facebook.com. Many events take have a presence on Facebook. Usually, Facebook is used in addition to official homepages. Large shrines and temples (such as Osaka Tenmangu, Sumiyoshi or Hasedera) have Facebook pages where representatives share photos and videos of their events, rehearsals and community activities. Groups of expats (such as In Osaka 大阪) share information about gatherings, house parties, hikes, barbecues yard/"sayonara" sales and maintains forums for users to ask questions about life and various services. Expat groups attract a lot of singles and heavy drinkers. Commercial party organizers (such as WhyNot Japan) share information about upcoming events and are similar to expat groups just with more raucous club settings.
- Meetup.com. This website has a popular smartphone app that is popular with travelers. Setting up an account on Meetup helps users find events based on the users interests and physical location. Events are posted on the site by social groups and professional event organizers (in Osaka these are mostly pub crawl staffers, churches and language exchange groups)
There are several publications that are putting out the word about great events and most of these publications are free! Unlike the train company papers, these publications are not focusing on events based on their proximity that specific rail lines.
- Kansai Scene Kansai scene is a free magazine that is distributed to places where You sould expect to see expats; foreign restaurants, international centers (Uehonmachi and Moriguchi), bookstores with English sections (such as the Namba Junkudo), English schools, etc. the magazine is sponsored ny various businesses that cater to foreigners. There is a classified section that readers are welcome to post ads in using the magazines web interface. Frature stories about restaurants, tour destinations, activities and biographical pieces. The highlight of the magazine is the events section which makes a list of regional events in the Kansai area witg information about admission fees, public transit access, dates/times, event deacriotions and (often) website addresses.
- Kansai Walker Kansai Walker is a Japanese language publication that is one of the most popular local publications, sonyou can find it at bookstores, convenience stores and many waiting rooms. This is a thick magazine dedicated to travel and leisure. Theae magazines cost about 400¥.
- Hiragana Times This is a monthly magazine desicated to bilingual (Japanese/English) language study aimed at people studying Japanese (but I find it useful when teaching English). These magazines cost about 500¥ and are fairly thin (about 48 pages) but they provide good information about Japanese culture, English conversation materials and foreigner life experiences. Sightseeing information is fairly rare here, especially as the magazine and the advertisers are based in Tokyo. att.JAPAN and att.KANSAI. These are similar to Kansai scene in in style but the att magazines are much more heavy on advertising but you can find some good information about sights and travel destinations among then hotel, resort travel company ads.
- Japan Times The Japan Times is a very active content provider in Facebook. They often have information about festivals and museum exhibits. If you follow them on Twitter watch out for their free ticket giveaways for museum events.
- Kansai Culture. The blog you are reading is a compilation of information provided by a wide variety of source.
- Kansai Scene. The website version of the magazine has become more difficult to extract information from after a recent redesign. Recently the magazine has unexpectedly skipped publication some months which may indicate some internal instability.
- Osaka-info.jp. Osaka Info provides information in English and Japanese (the Japanese version usually has better information). This is a professionally run tourism department page. Their character "Osaka Bob" also provides English information axeoss various social media platforms.
- Kyoto Guide. The tourism department of Kyoto has a great website that provides information each month on Kyoto's traditional events and antique/flea market scene.
- Google Maps. When using Google Maps you sill notice markers on points if interest (such as public gathering places, shrines and temples) which link to the official web pages for these places. You can check out these pages which usually have information about annual festivals.
- Kyocera Dome mostly serves as a venue for baseball games and music concerts but they sometimes have special conventions there; such as the World Hobby Fair or large scale, interactive 3D illusion art displays.
- INTEX. The International Exposition Center in Osaka hosts a number of events. Large scale events can fill all the buildings on the campus (such as the Automesse Car Show). The website has an English version but only a few of the international events are posted there. To find the vast majority of the events here you will need to check the Japanese version of the website. Look for the comic markets (Comic City)that appear there about every other month; those events are full of young people in cosplay selling homemade crafts as well as original or fan fiction manga (also a lot of erotic material, which is perhaps why it is not advertised to foreigners). INTEX has a lot of industrial and or niche trade fair events (such as green energy or camper van shows). INTEX has frequent job fairs, at which time you can expect to see a lot of sullen young job seekers putting on suits and making the rounds.
You often see posters on community message boards or on the sides of homes and businesses. watch out for these small postersmor flyers as they often point to small local festivals, events, volunteer opportunities and classes.
- Kumin centers. Loca l community centers have sports facilities, classrooms and conference rooms. These rooms can be rented out English teachers. The conference rooms can be used for language exchanges or international groups (such as the Fukushima Kumin Center).These centers have pamphlets as well as websites. Osaka city has an umbrella website that indexes many of these centers together in one website. https://www.osakacommunity.jp/com2/index.html
- City Hall/Ward offices (even some tax offices). These government offices have stands of pamphlets for local organizations, museums, attractions and services that are useful even for visitors.
- Yamato-Koriyama City Tourism Association. This small town, south of Nara city, has a good example of tourism website for smaller areas (as opposed to prefectural or metropolitan organizations). Yamato-Koriyama is home to a castle and many temples and gardens. http://www.yk-kankou.jp/event.html
Simply looking around and noticing gathering crowds and investigating is a good way to find events.
The practice of yukata hunting is means of finding events in the summer. Simply note the people of the trains wearing yukata; most of the time you can expect them to be getting dressed up for summer festivals and fireworks shows.