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What’s on in Setouchi 2019

The Rugby World Cup headlines a busy year that includes frenzied dancing, naked wrestling and walking barefoot across burning embers…

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February

Oyster Festival, Hiroshima

Oyster Festival, Hiroshima

Miyajima Oyster Festival
Fried oysters, oyster dote-nabe (hot pots) and even oyster okonomiyaki  (savoury pancakes) all line up in this harvest celebration of the region’s much-admired molluscs – staged at a time of year when they’re supposedly at their tastiest. Miyajima Island, 10-11 February

Hadaka Matsuri
Roughly translated as the ‘Naked Festival’, this annual melee sees nearly 10,000 men in loincloths wrestle each other in near-darkness as they scrap over two sacred shingi (wooden sticks). Kannon-in temple, Saidai-ji, Okayama, 16 February

April

Cherry Blossoms, Mt Shiude, Kagawa

Cherry Blossoms, Mt Shiude, Kagawa

Cherry Blossom Viewing
Join Setouchi locals in admiring the pale pink blossoms at hanami hotspots such as Himeji Castle, Handayama Botanical Garden (Okayama), Hiroshima Peace Park and Megijima Island. Expect sake-fuelled picnics aplenty. Across Setouchi, late March-early April

Emperor Akihito abdicates
The head of the world’s oldest dynasty stands down – the first time a Japanese emperor has done this in more than two centuries. Across Japan, 30 April

May

Sentei Festival
Time travel to the Heian era during this three-day-festival, which features women marching in a colourful costumed procession on 3 May. Akama-jingu Shrine, Shimonoseki, 2-4 May

July

Kangen-sai
Ancient Shinto ritual which sees lavishly decorated wooden boats float by major shrines on the scenic island (including its famous Itsukushima torii) while traditional musicians tootle and pound away. Miyajima, 31 July

August

Hiroshima Genbaku Dome, one of the sites of the Peace Festival

Hiroshima Genbaku Dome, one of the sites of the Peace Festival

Peace Memorial Ceremony
Hiroshima pays tribute to the 140,000 victims and many survivors of the 1945 atomic bomb with a poignant ceremony culminating in thousands of paper lanterns floating down the Motoyasu River. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, 6 August

Awa Odori Matsuri (Awa Dance Festival)
Mid-August in Japan sees the entire country celebrate Obon, the country’s annual festival of the returning dead. The wildest celebrations take place in Tokushima, with the nation’s largest dance, featuring people dancing and chanting in the streets, welcoming perished souls back to the world. Tokushima, 12-15 August

Fireworks, Hiroshima

Fireworks, Hiroshima

Kammon Straits Fireworks
Breathtaking pyrotechnics set the night sky ablaze on both sides of the straits which separate Honshu from Kyushu. Shimonoseki, 13 August

September

Kobe Misaki Stadium, Rugby World Cup 2018 Venue

Kobe Misaki Stadium, Rugby World Cup 2018 Venue. Image: Kobe Tourism Bureau

2019 Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup comes to Asia for the first time, with Kōbe hosting both England and Scotland games. Kōbe Misaki Stadium, 20 September-2 November

October

Saijō Sake Matsuri
Weekend of rice wine revelry, which sees the town’s 50 or so breweries open their doors to the public. Features free sampling and a ‘5,000-person outdoor pub’. Saijō, near Hiroshima, 12-13 October

November

Hiwatari Shiki
Join Miyajima’s monks as they walk across burning hot coals barefoot. Everybody can join in. Daisho-in Temple, Miyajima, 15 November

December

Luminare
Over 200,000 colourful light bulbs illuminate Kōbe’s streets with this annual event commemorating the victims of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. More than 3.5million  people visit every year. Kōbe, December TBC

For more information please visit: setouchitrip.com