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Held annually on 7, 8, and 9 October, Nagasaki Kunchi Festival is the city’s most famous with a history of almost 400 years. Although it began as a traditional Japanese autumn festival, certain aspects such as the “garden showing” (庭見せ, niwa-mise)—a reminder of the times when checks were carried out for any Christians who went into hiding after the Shimabara Uprising of 1637—have been influenced by the history of Nagasaki. It is registered as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
The festival is centered around Suwa Shrine but held at multiple venues throughout the city. The highlight of the festival is the Hono Odori—a dance performed in front of Nagasaki City Hall. The 59 districts of the city perform in rotation once every seven years, their dances often influenced by China, Portugal, and Holland.
There are four main stages (Suwa Shrine, Otabisho, Yasaka Shrine, and Kokaido), each of which has multiple performances at different times during the three-day festival. Buying tickets for the tiered stands is recommend, but prices aren’t cheap and most of the events only sell seats in sets of four. Tickets go on sale from the beginning of August. See the official Nagasaki Kunchi website for more details (Japanese only).